Not in the Hands of Boys

Fourth Rose

Story Summary:
Once the final battle is won, life must go on, although it can be even harder to master than death. Back at Hogwarts for his final year of school, Harry tries to cope with everything he's been through. As the world around him struggles for a way back to normality, he is forced to realise that in the long run, living takes a lot more courage than dying.

Chapter 14 - Part 14

Author's Note:
Thanks to cloudlessnights for betaing!

Mrs Tonks, looking a bit harassed, shoved a squealing Teddy into Harry's arms the moment he entered the house. "Harry, I'm glad you're here, Teddy is impossible to calm down, and I've still got a hundred things to do before Christmas. Would you mind watching him for a while?"

"Of course not, Mrs Tonks." Harry dropped his bag and shrugged off his jacket with some difficulty since Teddy was already trying to get at his glasses. "Do you want me to take him upstairs so we're out of your hair?"

Mrs Tonks seemed relieved. "That would be wonderful, there's no way that I'll get any work done while he's underfoot."

Teddy couldn't walk yet, but Harry knew from experience that he was surprisingly fast on his hands and knees, and since he had a knack for getting into accidents that rivalled his late mother's, it was a bit of a challenge to keep him safe. The house was swathed in Protection Spells and Cushioning Charms, but Mrs Tonks was adamant that magic alone was not enough to keep a small child from harm.

In fact, Harry was quite glad of the chance to avoid her company for a while; there would be enough of that during the next days, and he was never sure how to behave around her. She was always friendly, but she still kept her distance, and he knew that his presence must bring up all kinds of painful memories for her. Her husband had died for siding with him, her daughter and son-in-law had been killed fighting his battle - if he had been better, or faster, or cleverer at doing what he had been destined to do, Teddy wouldn't have to celebrate his first Christmas with only his grandmother and his godfather for company now.

He'd never dreaded Christmas as much as he had this year. He wouldn't have minded spending it with Luna, but she was going to Sweden with her father to visit some relative of theirs. The mere idea of celebrating with the Weasley family brought back memories of the summer months Harry had spent at the Burrow, in an atmosphere that was thick with sorrow and grief everybody tried to hide for his sake. Now there would be Ginny's silent resentment on top of that, and there was no telling how Mr and particularly Mrs Weasley would deal with the fact that Harry had broken up with their daughter and was now going out with somebody else.

Then Ron, looking extremely ill at ease, had taken Harry aside and informed him that he would spend Christmas with Hermione at her parents' house because they had insisted on finally wanting to meet their daughter's boyfriend. Harry hadn't been able to argue with that, but there was no way he was going to the Burrow for Christmas without Ron. During his next visit at Mrs Tonks', he had asked her if he could spend the holidays with her and Teddy.

Now he was here, and although he had no idea what to expect since he'd never spent more than an afternoon at a time in this house, he was convinced it had been the right choice. Teddy had a way of making him forget the world around him, and Harry passed the afternoon playing with him in the nursery until the little boy fell asleep right there on the floor. Mrs Tonks smiled at Harry when he came down the stairs with the sleeping child in his arms, although he noticed how she hastily blinked away a few tears when she thought he wasn't looking.

"I've cleared out Nymphadora's old room for you, you can take your stuff upstairs before dinner if you want to."

Harry hesitated. "Uh - thank you, Mrs Tonks, but I can sleep on the sofa in the living room if -"

"Harry," she interrupted him firmly, "it's all right. My daughter is dead, and it won't bring her back if I turn her room into a mausoleum. She has no need of it any more, but you do, so please go and make yourself at home." Harry didn't know what to say to that, so he merely nodded, handed her her grandson and took his bag upstairs.

The small room was colourful and comfortable. Harry sat down on the narrow bed for a moment and looked around; there didn't seem to be any of Tonks' personal belongings left in the room, but he still felt as if she were sitting next to him, watching him with that wide grin of hers while her hair flashed in every colour of the rainbow. It was a much better image than the last memory he had of her, still and pale on the floor of the Great Hall beside the body of her husband, and Harry did his best to hold on to it for a while.

* * *

He dreamed of Tonks and Mad-Eye Moody that night, but the only thing he still remembered when he woke up was that Tonks' hair had been bubble gum pink like when he'd first met her, and that Moody had worn an eye patch in the place where his magical eye should have been. Together with his clawed wooden leg, it had made him look like the pirate captain on the cover of a picture book Dudley had owned as a child.

Still sleepy and a bit disoriented, Harry scanned the unfamiliar room; it took him a while to recall where he was and that he should get out of bed because it was Christmas morning. He had put the presents for Teddy and Mrs Tonks under the Christmas tree before he'd gone to bed, and he didn't want to miss Teddy opening his presents at his first Christmas.

Mrs Tonks was already waiting for him with Teddy on her arm when he came down the stairs. She had lit the candles and fairy lights on the tree, and Teddy seemed so utterly fascinated by them that it wasn't easy to direct his attention towards the stack of parcels. There was no stopping him once he'd figured out that he was indeed allowed to rip the paper, though, and for a while he seemed more interested in the wrapping than in the presents themselves.

Harry eventually turned towards his own pile of presents; there were books from Hermione, a Cannons t-shirt from Ron, a bright blue Fwooper quill from Luna, homemade fudge from Kreacher (whom Harry had left at Grimmauld Place to take care of the house), a pocket knife from Hagrid (causing him to remember with a pang of guilt that he hadn't visited Hagrid once since school had started), and a framed photo of Teddy waving at the camera from Mrs Tonks.

Meanwhile, Teddy had abandoned the wrapping paper for the sake of the rocking Hippogriff Harry had bought for him and was busy trying to climb into the saddle. Harry watched with a grin; he had originally wanted to give him a toy broom, but then decided to wait a year or two when Luna had told him how she had once steered hers right through her parents' kitchen window.

"That was a wonderful idea for a gift, Harry, it will keep him entertained for weeks," Mrs Tonks said with a little smile. "And thank you for the scarf, it's lovely." Harry had had no idea what to give her, so he had asked Hermione and Luna for advice when they'd been to Hogsmeade for their Christmas shopping. After much debate, the two had agreed on a blue cashmere scarf with a Warming Charm woven into it.

"I'm glad you like it, Mrs Tonks."

"Very much so. But you've overlooked a parcel, see? The one under the heap of wrapping paper there is yours, too."

Harry reached for the small parcel with a sense of relief; the lack of Weasley jumpers among his presents had already made him worry that Mrs Weasley might be too angry with him to even send him anything for Christmas this year.

His relief was short-lived. The handwriting on the label was Mrs Tonks', reading This isn't really a present, Harry, but it's yours - Happy Christmas. Harry's heart sank; so he'd really been cut from the Weasley Christmas list. One present more or less meant little to him, but it had felt good to know that they counted him among their family members. He remembered the day Molly Weasley had told Sirius he was like a son to her, and the watch she had given him for his seventeenth birthday. She had welcomed him into her home and her family, and it hurt to think that he might no longer be welcome there now - even though he knew he deserved it, given how he had repaid her kindness.

It took him a second to realise that Mrs Tonks was waiting for him to open the parcel. The last thing he wanted was to offend anyone else close to him, so he quickly tore off the wrapping, revealing something that looked like a misshapen pencil. "I didn't have enough paper left, so I had to shrink it," Mrs Tonks explained while she raised her wand. "Finite Incantatem!"

The wooden stick in Harry's hands began to grow, with bristles sprouting from one end. Teddy stopped playing with his Hippogriff and watched with huge eyes; once Harry understood what he was holding, his expression probably didn't look much different.

"My Firebolt? But I lost it during - you didn't get me a new one, Mrs Tonks, did you?" Harry didn't really think she had; this was his broom, there could be no doubt about it.

Mrs Tonks shook her head. "No, my n- someone found it a few miles from here and recognised it, so they brought it here. It wasn't too badly damaged, and I thought it would make for a nice Christmas surprise to have it fixed for you." Looking at Harry, she added with a wink, "I think it worked, too."

"Yes, definitely." Harry ran his hand over the smooth shaft, remembering the day he'd first flown it. He would never have thought that after everything that had happened, a broom could still mean that much to him, but holding his Firebolt again felt like a reunion with a long-lost friend. "Thank you for this, it - it means a lot to me."

"Don't mention it." She put her hand on his shoulder for a moment, startling him; apart from handshakes, she had never touched him before. "It's a beautiful morning; why don't you go flying for a while after breakfast?"

* * *

It was indeed a brilliantly beautiful winter's day, cold and clear, the trees and bushes glittering with frost. Harry's face went numb after just a few minutes in the air, and his fingers soon seemed frozen solid in spite of his thick gloves, but he flew on. He was waiting for the familiar feeling that had always come over him once he'd kicked off the ground - the feeling that all his worries and troubles had stayed behind there, leaving him weightless and carefree like a bird under the sky.

Flying had always been the source of his greatest happiness, but now the elation of being back in the air wouldn't come. The broomstick underneath him, the wind tugging at his hair, the rush of air in his ears - it was exactly as he remembered, and yet nothing like it had once been. He went into a few hazardous moves, looping and diving to recreate the excitement that had once come with such stunts, but now they only reminded him of dodging the fiery monsters in the Room of Requirement while he had tried not to lose sight of Ron's broom through the black smoke that had seared his lungs. He did his best to push the thought aside, to focus on the peaceful beauty of his surroundings instead, but it was no good; the old happiness just wouldn't return.

Shivering and deeply frustrated, Harry finally turned around and headed back for Mrs Tonks' house. He was looking forward to curling up in an armchair in front of the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate and Teddy in his lap; he'd read him stories or help him build a tower out of the sparkling building blocks his grandmother had given him for Christmas. The thought cheered him up a bit.

He left the broom in a corner of the hallway and toed off his boots. He was still fumbling with the zipper of his jacket with half-frozen fingers when the door to the living room opened and Mrs Tonks came out. Harry looked up just in time to see a flash of blond hair before she quickly closed the door behind her.

"I heard you come in," she said without preamble, "and I wanted to let you know that we've got visitors."

"To warn me, you mean," Harry shot back, "so that I won't raise a stink when I find out that you have Narcissa Malfoy sitting in your living room?"

Mrs Tonks stiffened. "Harry," she began in a strangely formal tone, "please listen carefully. You were friends with my daughter, and you are Teddy's godfather; I know that you care for him, and I appreciate that. You will always be a welcome guest in my house, but Cissy is my sister, the only family I have left. If I have to ask someone to leave, it won't be her. Do I make myself clear?"

Harry gritted his teeth. "Perfectly." Her message couldn't have been plainer: if he refused to play nice, he would never see Teddy again. For a moment, it was very easy to believe that Andromeda Tonks was Bellatrix Lestrange's sister.

She nodded. "Then come in and have a cup of tea with us." Steeling himself, Harry followed her into the living room; he'd have loved nothing better than to storm up the stairs and lock himself into his room, but he wouldn't give Narcissa Malfoy the satisfaction of behaving like a sulking child in her presence.

Mrs Malfoy was sitting on the sofa, her back ramrod straight and her face set in a carefully calm expression. She inclined her head when Harry entered. "Mr Potter."

Harry nodded back, doing his best to keep his face just as impassive. "Mrs Malfoy." She looked much better than when he'd last seen her, but that was hardly surprising given the circumstances of their previous meeting.

"Have a seat, Harry, and some tea, you look half frozen." Mrs Tonks sounded perfectly cheerful, as if she had old enemies gathered around her coffee table every day. Harry sat down in the armchair farthest away from Mrs Malfoy, but didn't reply; he had to play along for Teddy's sake, but that didn't mean he would act as if he liked it.

Mrs Malfoy took in his dishevelled appearance and tousled hair with a raised eyebrow. "Have you been out flying? I heard that Andromeda returned your broom to you." Harry merely stared at her for a second - it took some nerve to expect him to engage in small talk with the woman who was at least partly responsible for the death of his godfather. He was well aware that he wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for her, though, so he nodded eventually, even though he couldn't bring himself to answer.

"My son tells me you are an extraordinary flyer." Harry wasn't sure what to make of that; he couldn't imagine that Draco had really praised his flying to her. She was sucking up to him for some reason, and it made his temper rise again.

"He would know, I beat him at Quidditch whenever we played against each other."

Mrs Malfoy's polite tone didn't falter. "That may be, but he was talking about the fact that he is still alive because of your flying skills. I haven't had a chance yet to thank you for saving him; please let me do it now."

Harry shrugged, wondering what she was playing at. "You evened the score, as far as I'm concerned."

She smiled thinly. "Yes, Draco said so. I can still appreciate what you did, can't I?"

Harry leaned forward in his chair. "Speaking of appreciation, why did you never tell anyone that you saved my life? I thought you would shout it from the rooftops that you basically won the war for our side." From the startled look Mrs Tonks gave her sister, it was obvious that she had no idea what Harry was talking about, but Narcissa remained calm.

"To be perfectly honest, Mr Potter, I wasn't sure whether you would corroborate such a claim, in which case it would have done my family more harm than good."

That gave Harry pause. She had expected him to deny that she had saved him? His astonishment must have shown on his face, because she added, "I apologise if I have offended you, but I suppose you can understand that I needed to be cautious."

Harry was about to reply when he heard footsteps. He turned around to see who else was in the house and froze when he saw Draco, with Teddy in his arms, come down the stairs. Draco didn't seem surprised by Harry's presence; he sat down on the sofa next to his mother and gave him a curt nod. "Potter."

Harry didn't answer; he was staring at the little boy who was now sitting in Draco's lap. Teddy's hair, which had been jet-black in the morning, had turned white-blond, and Harry couldn't decide whether he felt more betrayed because of the hair colour or because his godson seemed perfectly comfortable with his old school rival.

When he finally found his voice again, he said the first thing that came to his mind. "I would never have thought that you are good with children."

Draco shrugged. "Neither would I, but he seems to like me."

"It's that Levitation trick of yours, Draco, I've told you before," Mrs Tonks pointed out. "I still don't have the nerve to do it, but he loves it."

"It's really not that difficult, Aunt Andromeda, see here -" Draco reached for his wand; Harry tensed, but Mrs Tonks gave him a stern look. "Wingardium Leviosa!"

With a squeal of delight, Teddy gently rose into the air. Draco kept his eyes fixed on him, directing his movements with his wand. "You raise him a few feet, and then - Finite Incantatem!" He dropped his wand and caught Teddy as he fell, causing the little boy to squeal even louder.

Mrs Malfoy was smiling broadly, and for the first time, her smile seemed genuine. "I still remember how Lucius used to do that with you when you were small. Don't feel bad, Andy, I could never bring myself to try it either."

Harry had a hard time connecting the image of a father happily playing with his baby son with the Lucius Malfoy he knew, but at least he got some petty satisfaction from seeing Draco's cheeks flush with embarrassment.

"Mother, please do me a favour and spare me the nostalgia."

Mrs Tonks clucked her tongue. "You mean I shouldn't break out the baby pictures that your mother sent me?"

Draco's horrified expression made up for everything Harry had suffered through in the last half hour. He could barely suppress the glee in his tone when he asked, "You have baby pictures of him, Mrs Tonks?"

"Of course," she replied with a wink in Draco's direction. "Narcissa couldn't meet me any longer after I had run away from home, but she still wrote, and after Draco's birth, she sent me pictures of him each year at Christmas so I could see my nephew grow up. Didn't she tell you, Draco?"

Draco closed his eyes for a second. "I had no idea. Just stick a dagger into my back and be done with it, Mother, will you?"

Narcissa seemed rather amused by his discomfort. "Don't worry, they were very good pictures."

"I still have them somewhere," Mrs Tonks added innocently. "Would you like to see them?"

Harry couldn't keep silent at this. "I would love to see them, Mrs Tonks."

Draco's eyes narrowed. "Over my dead body, Potter."

Mrs Tonks shook her head. "Stop teasing him, Harry, he's got relatives for that. Besides, it's Draco you have to thank for getting your broom back; he found it when he was visiting this summer and told me what it was."

The glare Draco shot her made it very clear to Harry that Draco had not wanted him to hear about this either. Harry gave him a smirk; if he couldn't avoid Draco Malfoy's company even on Christmas Day, it was good to know that he could at least make him uncomfortable.

It still left the question why Draco had salvaged his broom, but Harry decided he was going to wonder about that later.