Unofficial Portkey Archive

Little by Little by SweetSolitude137

Little by Little


On an uncharacteristically warm day in August, Harry sat alone by the Great Lake, enveloped within the shade cast by Hogwarts, now in its final stages of renovation since the end of the Second Wizarding War. It felt odd, Harry mused, to be at Hogwarts so late in the summer, when he was no longer officially a student, and to know how ill-prepared he was to leave this place soon, to live the kind of freedom he'd always dreamt of, yet was now afraid to face.

Throughout the summer, it hadn't been difficult for Harry to avoid thinking about the next stage of his life. If he wasn't busy literally reconstructing the walls of Hogwarts or re-instating protection wards, he was at the Ministry of Magic working with Kingsley Shacklebolt, the new Minister of Magic, and a team of Aurors to "round up" and convict the remaining supporters of Voldemort.

Even though the focus of his work at the Ministry was admittedly unpleasant (no one, not even the most experienced Aurors at the Ministry, were particularly pleased to recount the atrocities that had been committed by Death Eaters and other followers of Voldemort, or "Voldie's Little Helpers," as some of the more veteran, and "eclectic," Aurors liked to call them), it brought Harry (and the Aurors) relief to know that justice was being served.

It also helped that the majority of the Ministry's Aurors welcomed him openly, treated him as an equal, and respected his opinion while still managing to teach him all they could about the responsibilities and tasks of an Auror. Even though he was never sent out "into the field," Harry felt that he was contributing something positive while learning useful skills in the process.

Looking out at the sparkling surface of the Great Lake, Harry remembered the day in July when Kingsley had visited him in his cubicle in the Auror Offices in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to offer Harry a full-time job as an Auror.

"You'll have to work your way up the ranks like everyone else, but you're already a valued part of the team here, Harry. A lot of them have been pestering me about when I was going to offer you the job… and I have a stack of memos to prove it." As he laughed deeply, Kingsley's wide smile shone even in the dim light of the Ministry's Auror Office.

In a similar vein, many people, both inside and outside of the Ministry, had rallied behind Kingsley as the new Minister of Magic in the immediate aftermath of the War. They had seen him as a source of stability, compassion, reassurance, and hope.

With new measures to promote egalitarian relationships and opportunities for positive growth within and outside the Ministry's magical walls, and a full-scale re-organization underway, Kinglsey was proving to be the ray of light in the darkness many had expected of him.

"Best get Robbards to take care of that for you, eh?" Harry commented, referring to an elaborate prank he and some of the team had played on Auror Robbards earlier that month, a prank which involved hexing a brigade of Ministry memos to encircle, and jab at, the Auror at all times, particularly when using the loo.

"You see Harry, you fit right in here. But more than that, I'd be honored if you'd be part of this team. So what do you say?"

In all honesty, Harry had felt the offer coming for some time, not because he thought himself particularly skilled, but because he seemed to fit in so well here, and because he was so willing and open to learn the ways of an Auror; however, his decision on the offer had not changed since he first suspected its coming.

"I'm honored Minister-"

"Harry," Kingsley bellowed, although not unkindly, "we've talked about you calling me Minister."

"Sorry, Kingsley, I mean- sir… I'm honored that you and everyone else want me as part of the team."

"I hear a `but' in the works," Kingsley sighed.

"But… right now, I feel like I've had enough experience with dark magic to last me a lifetime… two lifetimes. Maybe someday, in a year… or a few years," Harry paused, "If the offer is still valid."

"Now, how did I know that would be your answer? Not that I blame you Harry, you've given enough of your life to the cause, more than many of the Aurors here."

Kingsley continued, "But yes, the offer will be here if or when you decide to take it up."

"Thank you, sir. And again, I'm honored that I was considered at all."

"Bah! Some of the Aurors here have been considering you since you were born."

Harry smiled and said, "For the infant Auror division?"

Kingsley's sincere laugh shook the room for a moment, startling an innocent memo flying overhead, a few small wisps of parchment landing gently on Harry's shoulder. Harry brushed them off.

"You come back when you're ready, Harry. Merlin, you can even skip basic training… as long as you stay in shape of course." Kingsley said, playfully poking Harry in the stomach with the tip of his wand.

"And make" *poke* "sure" *poke* "you let me know if you need anything… anything at all."

"Yes, sir."

As Kingsley turned to walk away, two things rapidly crossed Harry's mind.

"Minister- I mean, Kingsley, sir! Do you mean anything?"

Kingsley turned in his spot to face Harry with a quizzical look on his face, a look that was uncommon for Kingsley, a man known to be so steadfastly sure and collected, even in the most difficult situations.

"Within reason of course, Mr. Potter."

"Yes, of course! I just meant… Hermione, Hermione Granger- she's been working so hard to set up Dobby's Hands as a legitimate organization… they do such important-"

"Yes, yes, Mr. Potter, you forget that I know Hermione- I dare say she has been as invaluable to so many magic and Muggle folk as she has been to you. I'd be glad to help her, Hagrid, Winky, and Firenze reach their goals. I'll do what I can."

Harry was happy to hear Kingsley's response to his request. Hermione, who, with Dobby's death, had been reminded of her dedication to S.P.E.W., worked so diligently over the summer with Hagrid, Firenze, and Winky to start Dobby's Hands, an organization focused on providing relief to people and creatures, magic and Muggle, affected by the War and other future turmoil, and promoting equality among witches, wizards, house elves, centaurs, and other magical creatures.

At the time of his conversation with Kingsley, Harry knew that Hermione was trying to make headway into the Ministry to gain support and to legitimize Dobby's Hands. He also knew that Hermione, Hagrid, Winky, and Firenze had plans to find a Muggle representative who could expand their efforts among Muggles as well.

They would be pleased to hear that the Minister not only appreciated their hard work, but was interested in helping them grow.

"Is there something else?" Kingsley asked kindly, sensing Harry was not done.

"So many of my friends fought bravely at Hogwarts, but many of them weren't able to take their N.E.W.T.S…. but they're brilliant at Defense. It would mean a lot to me if you considered them for jobs too, if they come looking- Neville Longbottom, Dean Thomas, Ron Weasley, just to name a few."

"Ah, yes. You shouldn't worry, Harry. We know what so many students had to sacrifice this year- much more than their studies. We will give them all their fair shot."

"Thank you, sir. That's all I ask."

As he turned to walk away, Kingsley nodded with a small but genuine smile across his face and said, more to himself than anyone else, "Harry Potter, he's given everything he never really had much of in the first place, and still wants for nothing but the happiness of others."

Emerging from this memory on Hogwarts' grounds, Harry smiled, glad that it hadn't taken long for Kingsley to start living up to his promises, as he had legitimized Dobby's Hands within the Ministry, and had accepted Dean Thomas for Auror basic training.

In addition to his Ministry duties and his time rebuilding Hogwarts, Harry had also spent some of his summer meeting in private locations in London with a few trusted members of the press so that he could honor the true events of the War.

Of course, Harry left out many of the details (whether they were too personal, too difficult to relive, or simply unnecessary to the story Harry felt the public should know), but gave credit where credit was due, and was honest about any and all of the events he could speak for.

Harry hadn't spoken too much of Snape, as he was still unable to come to terms with much of the truth of his professor's life. In fact, Harry hadn't spoken to anyone about Snape's memories, not the ones concerning his mother anyway, and he sometimes wondered if he would ever be comfortable enough to share what he'd seen through the pensieve the day he faced Voldemort for the last time.

Despite these factors, Harry had made absolutely certain, with the best of his ability, to clear the name Severus Snape, and give him the credit he deserved.

Unfortunately, Harry had also spent a significant amount his summer days at funerals, honoring those who had given their lives so that others may live, including Fred's, Colin's, Tonks' and Remus' funerals. Harry had attended them all and spoken at some… but he didn't like to think about those days.

While Monday through Saturday were days reserved for the Ministry, funerals, Hogwarts, and the press, Sundays were reserved for classes.

Sunday was the day, every week, when he, Ron, and Hermione would meet with Professor McGonagall in a makeshift Transfiguration classroom, or with Professor Spout in the new greenhouses reconstructed (nearly entirely by Neville and Professor Sprout) not far from Hagrid's hut, or with Professor Slughorn in his makeshift Potions lab, or with Professor Flitwick, who had scheduled today's lesson by the Lake.

It's more like Flitwick's and Hermione's class, Harry thought, chuckling to himself, knowing how much "guidance" he and Ron needed in Charms.

These meetings were designated with the purpose of completing the work that was typical for a seventh year student. Of course, it wasn't the same Hogwarts' education he would have received if he could have completed his seventh year as a normal student, but McGonagall and Hermione insisted that even now, after all that had happened, it was important to take and pass the N.E.W.T.S., "For the future," Hermione always said, whenever Ron or Harry would argue against the Sunday lessons.

As much as he and Ron (mostly Ron) complained about these Sunday "meetings," Harry found a sense of comfort in them, knowing that Sundays, which were usually days of rest for the witches and wizards rebuilding Hogwarts, would serve to distract Harry from his thoughts. Not only that, but it felt nice to learn as he had in his earlier years as a student, beside his two best friends, and to realize that he'd grown to become rather like equals to the Professors who had taught him for so long. During his eventful weekdays, Harry found himself longing for the normalcy and dependability of Sundays.

Harry was pulled from these reflections as he heard someone approaching from the direction of the castle. "Harry, you're early." It was Hermione, basket in hand, dressed casually for the day's outdoor Charms lesson.

"I had some free time," Harry admitted, which was true, given the fact that the physical renovations of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts were nearly complete.

Witches, wizards, and other magical creatures from all over the world journeyed to Hogwarts to give their support in any way they could. By the end of June, there was no longer room inside the castle for people to stay, so many ventured outdoors, in tents, in order to stay and help rebuild. Harry often wondered why so many chose to stay from day to day, when they could simply apparate home each night.

Apparently, the same thought had crossed Ron's mind on a day earlier in the summer, prompting him to ask a former Durmstrang student the very question Harry had asked himself on numerous occasions. The boy responded, "Ve understand the tragedy of var, and how all must come together to rebuild. Ve vont to show our thanks… this is how."

Harry was awed and overwhelmed not only by the willingness of these relative strangers to rebuild a place they barely knew, but by the amazing strength each individual contributed to the rehabilitation of those who had experienced loss during the War. The community of support served to lift people's spirits, and to propel the renovation of Hogwarts.

Harry (unsurprisingly), found himself as the face of this community of support, as people frequently sought him out to express their gratitude, relief, sadness, anger, and hope, sometimes in the form of a large meeting in the Great Hall, and sometimes in the form of a silent handshake.

Harry, as always, felt discomforted by the attention, and used any available opportunity to explain to others that their gratitude was misplaced. Harry took any chance he could to remind others that he was only a piece of the War effort, and that thanks should be given to those who gave their lived to protect others. In some small way, he felt that this helped sustain the memory of those who had died.

Harry also felt uncomfortable being the face of Hogwarts' community of support because he knew that Hermione was truly responsible for its' success. Throughout the summer, she headed the organization of daily support groups, the finding of ways for any and every being to contribute, and the planning of events (like Quidditch tournaments, and biweekly gatherings or organizational meetings in the Great Hall) to motivate others and build morale.

Not only that, but she worked closely with the Ministry's Muggle Liaison Office and the newly formed Dobby's Hands to help support magical and Muggle communities all around the United Kingdom, linking families affected by the War to the services and resources they needed to rebuild their own lives.

Of course, Hermione had the help and support of others, but Harry knew she was the driving force behind it all. In this way, Harry knew that, like himself, Hermione was forgetting to take care of herself. As if to reaffirm this knowledge, Harry noticed the evident exhaustion in her eyes as she stood next to him by the Lake.

"I brought some iced pumpkin juice from the kitchens since it's so hot today."

"Thanks, Hermione. Have you seen Ron around?"

"No… I feel like I haven't seen him once since last Sunday actually." Harry noticed a sadness in her voice that he realized had been present for quite some time, particularly when Ron was the subject of conversation. "I don't feel like I've seen you since last Sunday either."

Harry nodded. As much as he appreciated all the distractions the process of rebuilding had given him, he missed his best friends. He also knew that much of Hermione's sadness was the result of a relationship with Ron that had seemed so promising in May, but hadn't yet had the chance to develop.

Harry was empathetic to Hermione's sadness because his relationship with Ginny continued to be intermittent, riddled by periods of growth and decay, so that it hadn't been able to bloom.

While Harry and Ginny had been elated to see each other upon his return to Hogwarts just before the start of the Final Battle, the days following were riddled with awkward silences and a discomfort that Harry could only liken to a conversation between strangers.

In the days immediately following the battle, Harry and Ginny had made it a point to spend time alone together for comfort, to talk about everything that had transpired, and to dream about what might be next for them. It was during these conversations when Harry realized that Ginny, by no fault of her own, was in the dark when it came to the details of Harry's life. While Harry had once relished in this fact, it now made him a bit… uneasy.

Not so long ago, Ginny's distance from many of the significant events (many of them painful) and people (many of them less than pleasant) in Harry's life had allowed Harry to feel he could be "just Harry"- to escape from the turmoil which seemed inextricably linked to him. Now, after all he had been through during the War, Harry realized that those painful experiences had made him who he is, had become important parts of "just Harry." Harry felt that escaping from those experiences and influences was not only wrong, but disrespectful to the people, now gone, who had been a part of those experiences.

Harry tried to be open and honest with Ginny about his life, but he often found his words blocked by feelings of discomfort and anxiety- again, not by any fault of Ginny's - as if he were sharing intimate details of his life with someone he hardly knew, or with someone whom it was difficult to relate to.

Plus, while the cloud of ash and dust had finally seemed to settle around Hogwarts, Harry was still plagued by a cloud of remorse and something like denial, like some part of him was fighting to believe that the people he cared for were still in danger.

In any case, Harry was not ready to talk about some of the more- challenging- aspects of what had occurred during the battle at Hogwarts, especially not with Ginny.

Sensing his thoughts, Hermione asked, "How's Ginny?"

"Honestly, I wouldn't really know. Now that the castle's almost done she's been spending more and more time at the Burrow."

Ginny had been a frequent presence at Hogwarts during the immediate aftermath of the War, but after deciding that she would not return to school for her final year, her focus had shifted from helping to rebuild Hogwarts to helping to strengthen her true home- the Burrow.

"Do you think you'll go there soon? To be with her, and help Mr. and Mrs. Weasley?"

Harry shrugged, "I don't know. I haven't thought about it much."

Hermione nodded, seeming to know that Harry had been avoiding thinking about his future, much the same way she tried not to consider her own, even if she didn't let it on. There was a silence then, as Harry and Hermione looked out over the Lake.

Harry felt very unsure about living at the Burrow. He knew that moving to the Burrow would be the easy thing to do, as the Weasleys were his family, and it would certainly give his relationship with Ginny a real chance. At the same time, Harry feared that moving to the Burrow would be just another distraction from starting his "real life" and facing the emotions he'd been busy burying since the beginning of the War… well, Harry mused, for as long as I can remember.

Harry then thought of Hermione, who, despite her outward show of perseverance and optimism, he was truly worried about, who he'd been worried about for much of the summer, who still hadn't gone to Australia to restore her parents' memories.

"Hermione," Harry started quietly, tentatively, "when are you going to bring back your parents?"

Hermione looked to the ground then, hiding the tears that were beginning to well in her eyes, the way they did whenever someone asked her about her parents. She wondered what Harry must think of her, having parents, but choosing to keep them away.

"You must think I'm a horrible person."

"Of course I don't," Harry said immediately, but gently, "I guess I'm just… I don't know. Won't you feel better to be home with them?" Harry couldn't bring himself to admit to Hermione that he was worried about her, for fear of adding another pressure in her life.

Hermione didn't want to admit that her avoidance to restore her parents memories and bring them home did not stem from a fear that they would be angry with her (which they would be, but only for a very short time, being understanding parents), but from the fact that she knew that she would have to explain and thus relive everything that had occurred during the War, that she would have to face how she felt about what transpired during the past year, and most frighteningly, she would have to decide what to do next.

In spite of these fears, Hermione knew that her time to avoid "starting" her life again was running out.

"I'll go with you, if you want. If you're afraid they won't understand why you did what you did."

Hermione smiled sadly, remembering a time not long ago when she'd said similar words to Harry, when she told Harry she would face Voldemort by his side. Hermione wished it were as simple as being afraid that her parents would misunderstand why she altered their memories, but it assured her to know that Harry did not understand her true fears.

He has his own fears to face, she thought, knowing that Harry's time to begin his next chapter was rapidly approaching.

"Thanks, Harry," Hermione responded as gently as she could, afraid that what she was about say next would not sit well with her best friend. "Ron and I talked about going together, back in May, and I think it might be best if we stick to that plan. Maybe… maybe then he and I will have a chance."

Harry nodded, understanding why Hermione wanted some time alone with Ron and her parents, but the thought that his best friends, in some way, neither wanted nor needed him made his chest tighten in a sort of sickening loneliness.

"What about all your work here? And Dobby's Hands?"

"Harry, you know that there are so many other people out there working tirelessly to rebuild, and that some things… some things can only be mended to a certain point- when time has to take over."

Harry nodded, thinking to himself that there were some things that even time couldn't mend.

"As for Dobby's hands, that was always meant to be run by Hagrid, Winky, and Firenze, and someone who has much more experience with navigating the Ministry and that type of organization. Being right out of school, I would be doing the organization a disservice to be their leader right now. It also wouldn't be best to have a witch or a wizard as the leader of the organization… Plus, now Hagrid, Winky, and Firenze have Kingsley's support… thanks to you."

Hermione smiled, trying to ease some of the tension she could sense brewing between them.

"I need to undo what I did to my parents, and I need to give Ron and I a fair chance…"

"Well, then I guess I will go to the Burrow and spend time with Ginny," Harry responded, more harshly than he'd intended.

As if Hermione cares if I'm at the Burrow with Ginny, without her and Ron, Harry thought flatly.

As she feared, Hermione had struck an unpleasant cord with Harry, but decided not to make an issue of it.

"That might be best. You can help the Weasleys, and you can figure things out with Ginny."

"It seems like we kind of have things figured out then," Harry ventured with an empty smile, looking Hermione in the eyes, and knowing none of it was true.

"As much as we're ready to figure things out," Hermione responded, believing none of it.


I hope you like the first chapter! I'll admit it's a little dry, but I need to set things up. More exciting chapters to come. Please let me know what you think in the comments :)

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