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 25 - Part 25

Author's Note:
Thanks to cloudlessnights for betaing!

Harry woke at the crack of dawn from a feeling of pins and needles. It took him a moment to get his bearings and to realise that the reason for the maddening prickling in his arm was the fact that Luna was lying on it. She didn't wake up when Harry wiggled it out from under her and flexed his fingers to get the circulation going again, wincing at the sensation of a thousand ants crawling around inside his muscles. By the time the prickling subsided, he was wide awake; he couldn't have slept more than a few hours, but they had been blessedly dreamless, and he hadn't felt this well-rested in weeks. He closed his eyes for a moment, breathing in the familiar peppermint-patchouli smell that surrounded him and taking comfort from it as the memory of the previous night began to catch up with him.

He didn't let himself think about Dumbledore. This was a matter that would probably never be truly resolved for him, and pondering it now would get him nowhere. Instead, he tried to focus on the fact that he no longer needed to fear that something, or someone, might try to take over his mind and soul. The relief he expected to feel at the thought wouldn't come, though; it filled him with apprehension instead, and Harry soon felt too restless to stay in bed. He got up quietly, careful not to disturb Luna, and ducked into the tiny bathroom.

It made for a nice change not to need a cold shower first thing in the morning. Since it was Sunday, there was no need to hurry, and Harry spent quite a bit more time than usual in the bathroom. Luna was still asleep when he came back; Harry couldn't bring himself to wake her, yet he didn't want to go to breakfast and leave her alone like this. The idea of just sitting around and brooding held little appeal either, so Harry went over to Luna's desk to check whether she had any remotely interesting books there that would help him pass the time until she woke up.

There was a whole stack of books which looked surprisingly new in comparison to the ancient, leather-bound tomes that Hogwarts students usually worked with. Harry picked one up at random; it was a glossy paperback entitled Child Psychology that definitely came from a Muggle bookshop. Harry blinked in surprise; he was aware of Luna's peculiar reading habits, but this was still a bit out of the ordinary. He put the book back and took another; this one was clearly magical because it had a picture of a stuffed Kneazle on the cover, and the title read Keeping Children Curious. Shaking his head, Harry reached for yet another book, this time a heavier volume of the leather-bound variety, although it too looked brand-new. On the cover, it said in bold golden letters, Forget What Granny Taught You - Modern Childcare Spells for New Parents.

The book hit the desktop with a thump when Harry dropped it as if it had bitten him. His mind went strangely blank for a second; then his thoughts started racing. They hadn't slept together for several weeks - but before that... no, Luna had told him there was a spell she used, and she couldn't have forgotten that or got it wrong, she was a Ravenclaw after all - and yet Luna wasn't exactly what one could call an ordinary Ravenclaw, so if she'd thought... no, she wouldn't do that, not without telling him, and she was much too honest to -

Harry startled violently when two arms wrapped themselves around his waist from behind and Luna's voice whispered a sleepy "Good morning" into his ear. He hadn't even heard her get up, and when he turned around, she must have noticed from his expression that something was wrong.

"Are you all right?" She cocked her head to the side and gave him one of her piercing stares. "You look as if a Wrackspurt had got to you!" Before Harry could answer, she had spotted the book he'd dropped on the desk, and her face lit up. "Oh, you've seen it already!"

Before he knew what was happening, he found himself caught in a rib-cracking embrace. "Harry, I have wonderful news!"

Harry slowly sank into the chair next to the desk; he hadn't meant to, but his knees were giving out. All he finally managed to reply was a rather weak, "...yes?"

"Yes!" Luna bent down and placed a smacking kiss on his cheek. "I've got a job! St Mungo's is opening a childcare centre for war orphans next month, and I'm going to start training as a nursery school teacher there once I've got my NEWTs!"

She kept on talking, but Harry didn't hear what she was saying; he felt too dizzy from the sudden rush of relief. It took Luna a while to notice that he wasn't listening, but at last she stopped nattering and gave him a worried look. "Harry, are you sure you're all right? You're as white as a sheet!"

Harry shook his head and tried to get a grip on himself. "Sorry, Luna, I - it's just that I saw all those books about children, and..."

"And?" she asked when he didn't finish, but before he could come up with a reply that wouldn't make him look like the world's greatest idiot, her jaw dropped in obvious realisation. "You thought I was pregnant?"

There was no way to deny it now, so Harry nodded reluctantly. Luna burst into a peal of laughter and sat down in his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Oh, Harry, that's so like... like you to think that!" She was still giggling, and although Harry was glad that she wasn't angry or upset, he was beginning to feel extremely embarrassed.

"Sorry," he finally mumbled without looking at her, "it was a stupid thing to think."

"A bit, yes," Luna conceded. "It's also rather sweet, though. Really, Harry, it's a very basic medical charm, there's no need to worry that I'll get it wrong."

"I haven't really thought about it before," Harry confessed. "I mean, it's not that I don't ever want children, but -"

"- but not while you're still at school, and not with a girl you don't love," Luna finished matter-of-factly, as if she were commenting on the weather. "That's perfectly sensible, you know."

"Can we just... forget I ever said anything?" Harry's cheeks were still burning, and he was desperate to change the topic. "Congratulations on the job, Luna - I'm really happy for you. I'm sure you will be great with children." He felt a small stab of envy when Luna's face split into a beaming smile at this. Why wasn't he able to muster this kind of enthusiasm for the job he'd dreamed of since he was fourteen?

"Thank you," she said and kissed him again, and Harry finally let himself relax into her touch. Luna held on to him for a moment and then asked gently, "There's something else on your mind, isn't there?"

Harry nodded again, marvelling at her ability to read him. It was strange that Luna, who always seemed to have her head in the clouds, never failed to notice when there was something wrong with him; she never pried if he didn't want to talk about it, but it was comforting to think that she always knew.

He didn't feel like telling her in detail what had happened last night, but he didn't want to brush her off either, so he finally settled on answering as vaguely as possible. "I just got answers to some questions that have bothered me for a long time, but they were... not what I expected."

Luna pondered this for a moment. "So you didn't learn anything new?"

Harry paused, considering. "Yes, I did," he finally admitted, "but in a way, it seems to me that I now know less than before."

"That's not necessarily a bad thing," Luna replied earnestly. "There was a Muggle who taught that it's the height of wisdom to know that you know nothing."

Harry frowned. "That doesn't really make sense."

"Oh, I'm not so sure about that," Luna said with a small shrug. "It's better to know that you know nothing than to believe something that's not true, isn't it?"

Harry reminded himself that this bit of wisdom came from the girl who believed in Bibbering Humdingers, but after last night, he had to concede that she might have a point. "Perhaps you're right, but I still don't know what I should do now."

"I think," Luna answered in a tone of authority, "that you should visit your godson."

"What?" Harry was used to non-sequiturs from Luna, but this still took him by surprise. "What has Teddy got to do with anything?"

"Perhaps nothing, but you haven't seen him in weeks." Luna ruffled Harry's hair and gave him another bright smile. "I'm sure he misses you."

Harry fell silent for a moment, thinking hard. He'd stopped visiting Teddy because he didn't want to come near the boy until he found out what was wrong with him - but he had found out now, hadn't he? Whatever the connection with Voldemort had done to him, it was done and couldn't be changed. He would have to find a way to live with it, and he couldn't keep everyone he cared about at arm's length for the rest of his days - not unless he wanted to give Voldemort the final triumph of having ruined his life for good after all.

He tightened his arms around Luna's waist and finally found himself able to smile back at her. "Would you like to meet him?"

* * *

Breakfast was almost over when Harry and Luna finally entered the Great Hall; there were just a few students left at their respective house tables, and Harry spotted Ron waving at him with a piece of toast from the Gryffindor table.

Ron watched with a satisfied expression as Luna kissed Harry on the cheek and then went to sit with her fellow Ravenclaws while Harry sat down next to him.

"Looks like you've made up, eh?"

"What are you talking about?" Harry asked absent-mindedly while he reached for the Pumpkin Juice. "We weren't fighting."

Ron shrugged. "Could have fooled me. You've slept in your own bed for at least a month now; I thought you might have let slip that you don't believe in Snorkacks or something."

A few heads turned when Harry laughed out loud. He didn't particularly care; it felt too good to be able to laugh like this again, like a schoolboy who had no other care in the world than marks and homework and girls. For a moment, Harry could almost believe that they were truly heading back towards normality; he knew the feeling wouldn't last long, but he was determined to make the most of it while it did.

"We're fine, Ron, really. By the way, where's Hermione?"

"Three guesses," Ron sighed while he buttered another piece of toast. "Sometimes I wonder why she doesn't just move into the library." His face brightened when he continued, "Care for a game of chess after breakfast? I haven't played in weeks."

Harry shook his head. "Can't - I need to finish my homework before lunch; I'm going to see Teddy in the afternoon."

"You're not going to watch the game?" Ron sounded scandalised. At Harry's blank look, he added in a stern tone, "Hufflepuff is playing Slytherin today at three o'clock, remember?"

"Oh." Harry shrugged. "I'd forgotten. Sorry, Ron, but you'll have to watch it without me."

"You're taking this whole godfather business a bit too seriously, if you ask me," Ron grumbled. "The Hufflepuffs need every bit of support, you know."

Harry found himself wondering - not for the first time - if Ron was really still this enthusiastic about Quidditch or if he just used it as a distraction to take his mind off other, far more serious matters. There was no way to ask him about it, though. "You'll just have to yell a bit louder, I'm sure you'll manage."

"Wanker," Ron murmured under his breath, but he was grinning, and for a moment Harry allowed himself to simply enjoy seeing that expression on Ron's face again.

* * *

It was a sunny and unseasonably warm day for late March, and there was a smell of spring in the air when Harry stepped through the main gate after lunch. Luna wasn't here yet; she'd gone to get the Headmistress' permission to leave the school grounds, and McGonagall was obviously keeping her longer than expected. Harry didn't particularly mind since he could sit on the front steps and bask in the sun while he waited for her, but it seemed rather ridiculous to make such a fuss about Luna leaving Hogwarts for a few hours after everything she'd been forced to handle during the last year. Did McGonagall really think that sticking to the rules as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened would turn everything back to normal again? For the first time, he found himself wondering how the teachers dealt with having a bunch of war veterans for students, and how absurd they felt when they asked teenagers who had lived through a year of bloodshed, death and oppression to act as if school was the biggest concern they'd ever had.

He remembered the look McGonagall had given him when she'd heard that he'd killed Greyback, and he couldn't help thinking that she was probably looking forward to getting rid of him once the school year was over. If he was honest with himself, he didn't even blame her if she was.

"Trying to grow freckles, Potter? I'm sure the Weasel will lend you a few if you ask nicely."

Harry whipped around at the sound of the all-too-familiar drawl. Draco was standing right behind him in full Quidditch gear, clearly on his way to the pitch; he was leaning on his broomstick and shading his eyes with his hand.

"Aren't you a bit early, Malfoy? The game doesn't start until three, do you need that much time to come up with a convincing pep-up talk for your team?" It was a lame reply, but Harry didn't feel like bickering; he'd rather Draco just left him alone.

Draco stepped around Harry so that the sun was behind him, leaving Harry to squint up at him from the stone step he was sitting on. "They don't need much in the way of pep-up talks; knowing that you're on your own against the rest of the school does wonders for the team spirit."

Harry shrugged. "Don't expect me to shed any tears over poor oppressed Slytherin House."

"I don't," Draco replied curtly. "Let's see how you like it when we beat Hufflepuff and take the lead in the Quidditch tournament, though."

"I won't give a damn," Harry replied with another shrug. "You honestly think that I still care about Quidditch?"

"You honestly think that I do?" Draco shook his head with an expression that bordered on pity. "But it won't be so easy for your lot to make these kids feel ashamed of being Slytherins while we're kicking the crap out of you on the pitch."

That gave Harry pause; he remembered Ron's words about how hard Malfoy made the Slytherin team train. Would anyone really go through all this trouble just to allow his housemates to hold on to their pride? It seemed a lot of effort for making a bunch of snobbish children feel better about themselves. Still, he hadn't forgotten how those children had closed ranks around their captain when Ginny had spat at him after they had beaten Gryffindor.

Slytherin's loyalty is to our own.

For a second, Harry felt sorely tempted to tell Draco about his blood relation to Salazar Slytherin just for the sake of seeing him choke on that bit of news, but he held himself back. The less Draco knew about everything that had happened last night, the better. Harry wasn't sure why Lucius hadn't wanted his precious son to learn about Harry's half of the deal they had made, but he certainly wasn't complaining - the idea of Draco Malfoy in possession of that kind of blackmail material was highly unsettling, to say the least.

"So," Draco said with a smirk when Harry remained silent, "I take it you aren't carrying any leftover bits of the Dark Lord's soul around after all?"

That question brought Harry up short. "What? Have you been talking to your father about me?"

"Do you think I'm stupid?" Draco shot back, his eyes flashing. "Or are you hoping that Father will break the vow? If you are, you're in for a disappointment."

"Then how did you know -"

"Oh, please!" Draco cut him off in a tone that made Harry itch to smack him. "If Father had found even the smallest hint of the Dark Lord's presence in your mind, you wouldn't be roasting in the sun here, you'd be running around in a fit of hysterics with your whole Gryffindor posse fussing over you!"

Before Harry could think of a fitting reply, Draco turned on his heel, shouldered his broom and marched off in the direction of the Quidditch pitch, green-and-silver robes billowing around him in a way that would have earned him Snape's grudging approval.

Harry stared after him, caught between annoyance and wry amusement at the thought how much it must irk the little git to know that he'd never learn what his father and Harry had really been talking about.

* * *

Somehow, Harry thought, he didn't mind Teddy's blond hair so much when the little boy was trying to make himself look like Luna. It had come as a bit of a shock how much Teddy had grown in the few weeks Harry hadn't seen him; to Harry's relief, Teddy still recognised him, but Luna with her long hair and her dangling paperclip earrings was clearly much more interesting to him.

Harry wasn't surprised at all that Luna and Teddy got on like a house on fire. They were currently sitting on Teddy's blanket on the floor together; Luna had conjured a flock of tiny golden birds (reminding Harry uncomfortably of Hermione's kamikaze canaries) that twittered and tweeted as they flew in circles around Teddy's head while Luna directed them with her wand as if it were a conductor's baton. Teddy squealed with delight as he tried to grab them; whenever he managed to catch one, it disintegrated with a resounding pop, which made him squeal even louder. Harry, who was watching the show from his spot on the sofa next to Mrs Tonks, found it difficult to tell whether Teddy or Luna were enjoying themselves more.

Mrs Tonks' smile almost split her face in two as she watched them. It was a good look on her, Harry mused, all the more because it was so rare.

"I can't believe I'm seeing this. Teddy is so shy around strangers these days - your girlfriend really has a way with children, Harry."

There was an undertone to her remark that Harry found vaguely unsettling. "Yes, she's going to be a nursery school teacher."

"That's nice, I'm sure she'll be great." Mrs Tonks seemed to ponder something for a moment. "Why didn't you bring her along before? You two have been together for a while, haven't you?"

Harry frowned at this; he was sure that he had never mentioned Luna to Mrs Tonks before. "I had no idea you even knew -"

"Oh, Draco mentioned her in his last letter," Mrs Tonks said casually and, after noticing Harry's expression, quickly added, "He wasn't talking about you behind your back, Harry, I asked him how you were doing. You haven't visited for a while, so -"

"I'm not sure Draco Malfoy is the best person to ask about my well-being," Harry pointed out in the most neutral tone he could muster, making a mental note never to miss a weekend visit at Mrs Tonks' again. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask her why she hadn't written him if she was so keen to know how he was doing, but he bit back the question just in time after remembering that Mrs Tonks had written him a few times and that he had hardly ever written back. He'd never been much of a letter writer in the first place, and going to the Owlery to send one of the school owls always brought back painful memories of Hedwig.

Mrs Tonks smiled indulgently. "Don't worry, Harry, I know you still don't like him, and I don't blame you. I saw things differently too when I was your age, but by now I've learned a thing or two about the value of family."

Harry pressed his lips together to keep himself from reminding her that he'd never had much of a chance to learn about these values thanks to the man Draco's parents had followed. It wouldn't be fair, not when Mrs Tonks had lost just as much as he had - perhaps even more, given that she had known and loved the people who had been taken from her.

"So," Mrs Tonks continued in a conversational tone, "forgive me if I'm being nosy, but are you two... you know, serious?"

Harry felt his cheeks grow uncomfortably hot, but he was spared an answer when Luna, from her spot on the floor, replied cheerfully, "We're friends, Mrs Tonks, we're not going to get married or something like that."

"Oh." Mrs Tonks seemed a bit taken aback by the frank answer. "That's... a pity, I suppose."

"Oh, I don't know." Luna sent the last remaining bird straight into Teddy's outstretched hands and smiled at his excited squeak when it went plop. "Having friends is a great thing, Harry, isn't it?"

"Of course it is." Harry, glad of the chance to escape Mrs Tonks' needling, quickly got up and joined Luna and his godson on the floor. "Want me to take over for a bit?"

"Yes, please, my legs have gone to sleep." Luna stood a bit awkwardly and made her way to the sofa. Within minutes, she had engaged Mrs Tonks in an animated discussion about spells and charms that should or shouldn't be used around small children.

Harry tuned them out and focussed on Teddy instead. All the excitement seemed to have been a bit much for him; when Harry picked him up, Teddy made a half-hearted swipe for his glasses, but then slumped against Harry's shoulder and quickly dozed off.

It was a rather uncomfortable position, sitting cross-legged on the floor with the little boy hanging like a lead weight from his neck and drooling all over his shirt front, but Harry found that he didn't mind. It was oddly comforting to cradle Teddy in his arms like this, his soft blond hair tickling Harry's neck and one of his sticky little fists clenched tightly into the fabric of Harry's shirt. Teddy rarely ever held still for a second while he was awake, so Harry didn't often get a chance to just hold him and marvel at this strange little creature who always managed to make him forget everything that had seemed utterly important before.

Harry couldn't help thinking of Remus Lupin, who would never get to hold his son like this, and he experienced a sudden surge of protectiveness that surprised him in its intensity. The idea of having children had seemed like an abstract, vaguely threatening concept just this morning, but Teddy wasn't some faceless, nameless baby that might or might not exist one day, he was real and right here, and Harry was one of the few people who were willing to be there for him when he needed them.

Right now Harry couldn't think of anything he wouldn't do to keep the little boy from harm, and he couldn't help it that this realisation made him think of Dumbledore. What must it be like to see such a boy before you, small and helpless and trusting, and calmly decide that he would have to be sacrificed for the greater good?

The thought didn't make him angry, it just left him with a vague, hollow feeling of sadness - as if he were grieving the loss of something he had tried to believe in all these years, even though he would never know if it had ever been real in the first place.

Harry didn't notice how both Luna and Mrs Tonks kept glancing in his direction; he held the sleeping boy as closely as he dared, rocked him gently and silently promised him to make things better, even though he had no idea yet how he was going to go about it.