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Dear Harry,

Will all the letters you write to me this summer resemble the first one? Will they all be short, skimp on details, and lack poetry?

I’ll admit that in a way it was a bit endearing - the crassness of your letter is very much like you and your complete lack of etiquette. Even so, reading your letter filled up very little of my time. Considering this summer is shaping up to be one of unbearable boredom and monotony, I hope you’ll put just a bit more effort into entertaining me.

If you won’t, I’ll just have to entertain myself by writing you novella-length letters. I suppose I could work on my Charms essay, but I just found myself staring at what I’d written for well over an hour before I realized that I hadn’t added anything to it and I wasn’t comprehending anything I’d written so far. I’m not even certain that what I’d written was in English. The parchment may as well have been blank for all the meaning I could construe.

To be fair, I do have a reason for my distraction: my mother has barely spoken to me since she picked me up from King’s Cross. I cannot pretend that I don’t know why, and I can’t help but take it personally; she speaks amicably and often with Mrs. Zabini as well as Blaise, but she offers me nothing but silence. Don’t worry - I know we’ll get past this eventually. I’ve seen her give my father the silent treatment more times than I can count. I'm certain she'll be nagging me about something or other in no time.

Blaise’s mother, on the other hand, seems to be pretending that nothing is wrong at all. Blaise hasn’t said anything, but he appears to be quite unsettled by this. At meals he always waits for someone else to eat first and he’s made it abundantly obvious that he does not want to be alone with his mother. Every other comment he makes to me when we're together is about how his mother is going to kill him and make it look like an accident; he mentions it so often that I’m beginning to wonder if he expects me to avenge him should anything happen. Even now, while I write to you, he seems quite distracted. He’s been working on an essay for Arithmancy for over two hours now, but the crumbled pieces of parchment he’s thrown away number in the dozens, and that’s even after he already set a healthy pile of them on fire.

Since Blaise is so distracted by the thought that his mother may or may not murder him any day now, he’s a poor source of entertainment. Again, I am left to entertain myself.

I suppose the Zabini home is nice enough, but it is quite small compared to Malfoy Manor. There are no outdoor gardens to meander in, nor horses to ride. There is only one room for dining, and the library is barely the size of my bedroom back home. Blaise and I spend much of our time in the library -

Harry’s lips quirked as he neatly folded the letter and tucked it into the side pocket of his bag. He’d already read the letter half a dozen times, and he’d nearly memorized Draco’s lament about the lack of amenities at Blaise’s house. He wondered what the immensely spoiled Draco would think of the Dursleys’ home; while Vernon and Petunia seemed quite proud of their slice of suburbia, it sounded as if it was absolutely minuscule compared to Blaise’s home, much less Draco's.

At least Blaise had a library. At least Draco had access to that library.

Harry had known that he was going to be even more miserable than he generally was with the Dursleys that summer, but he hadn’t expected to grow frustrated within mere hours of entering his small bedroom. He had all the usual irritation at being cut off from the wizarding world with some of the worst Muggles any wizard could imagine, but he knew that wasn’t the entire reason why.

He supposed it was the first summer where he truly wanted to continue learning and studying, and yet he wasn’t able to do so. The only books he had any interest in studying were ones he was already fairly familiar with, and he craved digging into something new. He also felt he had good reason to continue learning; he was apparently destined to destroy Voldemort, after all.

Fortunately for Harry, his irritation was short lived. He was going to be leaving the Dursleys’ a mere four days after arriving.

Harry pulled out a piece of parchment and a pen, smirking as he did so. He partially did it because he didn’t think he’d have time to wait for the ink to dry if he wrote with an ink and quill, but also because he knew that writing with a Muggle pen would irk Draco.

Dear Draco,

By the time you read this, I should be at Andromeda’s house.

Yes, I know the length of this letter will irritate you. And yes, I’m doing that on purpose. Old habits die hard.

I miss you.

- Harry

Despite his relatively newfound and still growing fondness of Draco Malfoy, Harry had come to realize that he still greatly enjoyed annoying him. In fact, Harry wanted to find even more new and inventive ways of vexing the pointy, sarcastic, and kissable boy.

Harry felt a little flush at that thought. It astounded him. He, Harry, was romantically involved with Draco Fucking Malfoy. He and Draco were essentially dating - if it could even be called that.

Whatever it was, the fluttering that developed in his gut whenever he and Draco had kissed or touched or even just glanced at one another in the last few days of the school year had been brilliantly alien. Harry loved that feeling. Even just thinking about it started that little flutter up again, although it wasn’t as intense as it had been when he was actually in Draco’s presence. Harry found he missed that intensity.

Harry’s eyes traced the last line of his letter, and he felt the words to his core.

He missed him.

He supposed that was why he was suddenly so invested in thinking of different ways he could annoy Draco from afar. Perhaps the ache to repopulate the butterflies in his stomach was why his thoughts seemed to continuously return to Draco. Harry knew he could be a little obsessive at times, but he never expected to grow obsessed with Draco Malfoy.

To be fair, Harry knew he could have merely been thinking of ways to mildly annoy Draco in order to relieve some of the guilt he felt when reading Draco’s letter.

Draco’s mother wasn’t speaking to him, and Harry knew that it was because of him.

He also knew that it wasn’t due to Harry’s new status in Draco’s life; as far as he knew, Draco’s mother wasn’t aware that her son had spent his last few days of his fifth year snogging Harry Potter.

It was because Draco’s choice to ally with Harry had cost Narcissa Malfoy her husband and her home, as well as her sister.

And Draco wouldn’t have had to make that choice yet if Harry hadn’t made the rash, stupid, and, as Harry had come to think of it, incredibly Gryffindor decision to go to the Ministry of Magic. Perhaps if Draco had been able to make the decision under more rational circumstances, the outcome could have been much better.

Harry couldn’t find it in himself to regret the fact that Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange had been arrested in the Department of Mysteries. In fact, he found himself more than a little satisfied in knowing they were no longer causing pain and misery to anyone that crossed them.

He did, however, regret that Draco’s father had been arrested, which had caused strife between Draco and his mother.

It was an odd mesh of feelings and Harry didn’t quite know how to process them together.

Harry realized he’d been staring sightlessly at his letter, and he remembered that he was short on time; Andromeda would be there any minute. He folded the parchment and turned to Hedwig.

“Can you take this to Draco for me?” he asked.

Hedwig gave his hand an affectionate nip, then trilled at him. As Harry was securing the letter to her leg, he let out a little laugh as another spark of inspiration came to him. “Would you get tired if you flew to the Zabinis’ and back every day?” Perhaps Harry could continue his annoyance of Draco by simply sending him comically short, inane letters every single day.

Hedwig tilted her head and Harry swore that the coo that came from her beak sounded confused. Harry immediately knew why; it was because the Dursleys would always get upset if Hedwig was flying in and out of their house constantly.

“I almost forgot!” Harry exclaimed. “We’re leaving. I’ll be with Andromeda and Ted Tonks by the time you’re done, so go there after you see Draco. Okay?”

Hedwig hooted an affirmation, and then she flew off into the night sky.

After he’d lost sight of Hedwig’s silhouette, Harry turned around and immediately grimaced when he focused his attention on his trunk. Even though he hadn’t gained a single belonging since coming to the Dursleys,’ it seemed as if his things had expanded. For some bizarre reason Blaise had helped him pack his trunk when they were leaving Hogwarts, and Harry had no idea as to how Blaise had managed to fit all of the clothes, books, and trinkets inside the trunk that they were now spilling out of.

Harry hastily began trying to cram everything back inside, but he couldn’t get the trunk to shut.

He was just sitting down on the lid in a futile attempt to get it to close when he heard a knock at the door. He leapt to his feet and the lid flopped open with such force that it may as well have been spring-loaded, but Harry paid it no mind.

The Dursleys did not knock on Harry’s door.

A brief flash of panic ran through Harry. What if the letter from Andromeda hadn’t been from Andromeda, after all? Harry knew her handwriting better than her voice, and it certainly seemed like hers.

“Harry?”

Harry blinked, the panic draining in an instant. He wrenched the door open and was met with the vision of Andromeda Tonks standing in the hallway, with her daughter, Nymphadora, who preferred to go by ‘Tonks,’ at her side. Andromeda’s inherent elegance somehow made the Dursleys’ seem small and common, and Tonks’s purple and blue hair made the hall seem boring and plain.

It was a surreal sight for sore eyes.

“Hiya, Harry,” Tonks said, giving him an odd little salute.

A closed-mouthed yet warm smile appeared on Andromeda’s face. “It’s good to see you again,” she said.

“Yeah. You, too,” Harry said quickly, distracted. “How did you get up here? Aren’t the Dursleys -”

“You didn’t hear them leave?” Andromeda asked. “I believe I heard them say that they had the sudden desire to go to the bookstore.”

“The… bookstore?” Harry asked incredulously. It was nighttime, but that wasn’t the main reason for his disbelief. “When… when did they start reading?”

Tonks abruptly let out an exasperated sigh. “Mum, I am thrilled that you’re being more open and honest with me, but do I have to remind you that I am still an Auror?” she asked, crossing her arms and shooting Andromeda a glare that was positively dripping annoyance.

Her mother merely stared back at her cooly. Tonks finally broke the tension with another heaving sigh that seemed to make her deflate. “Just don’t tell me you used an Imperius.”

“Very well,” Andromeda said. “I won’t tell you I used Imperius.”

Mo-ther!” Tonks said with a gasp. The staring match continued until Tonks finally snapped her gum. “Behave.” Then she grinned, and her hair suddenly grew in size and length, the spiky blue and violet giving way to a rich, shining brown, before it all settled into a cascade of thick curls draping down around her face.

It was identical to Andromeda’s hair, and Harry was struck for the first time by how much Tonks looked like her mother.

Andromeda rolled her eyes as Tonks’s hair shrank back to its former state. “I have far more subtle tricks than an Imperius, Nymphadora.” She then turned her attention back towards Harry, who couldn’t help but smile at their exchange.

“Are you ready to go, Harry?” she asked.

Harry winced, the smile falling from his face. “Uh… almost?”

One of Andromeda’s eyebrows arched upwards. “Why does that sound like a question?” She peered behind him and frowned. “I take it that this trunk is yours?” she asked, her tone suddenly disdainful.

“I… well, yeah,” Harry mumbled.

“And why does it presently resemble a volcano?” she asked, taking a few steps towards the trunk and tilting her head as if inspecting the devastation.

Tonks let out a giggle. “Ooh, Harry,” she snorted, “there’s something you should know if you’re going to be living with my mother.”

“Oh?” Harry asked hesitantly.

“She’s going to make you be tidy,” Tonks said, grinning. “And if you are half as bad as me -”

“If this is the result of an attempt to pack, I fear he may be even worse than you, Nymphadora,” Andromeda said, cutting her off.

Tonks burst out laughing at that.

“I’m sorry!” Harry exclaimed, blushing. “The trunk seemed way bigger when I was eleven. I guess I’ve… gotten a lot more stuff since then.” He knew that was especially true in the last year - he’d acquired several new books, as well as an entire new wardrobe courtesy of his housemates.

Andromeda’s gaze swiveled towards him, her eyes narrowed and calculating. “Is this everything, then?” she asked, her words sounding oddly sharp.

Harry nodded.

Something unrecognizable flashed across Andromeda’s face, and then she turned back to the trunk, drawing her wand. She flicked it upwards and all of his things seemed to sail upwards into a chaotic cloud, and Harry could see everything from his books to his jumpers floating all around them. His blush grew darker as a pair of his drawers floated past his face.

Andromeda’s eyes swept the room and with a graceful turn of her wrist, his things seemed to start gravitating into categories - his clothes folded themselves along the way and gathered together, his quills and ink tucked themselves into a roll of blank parchment, and his books were stacked together by size.

She then leaned forward and inspected the books for a moment. With another flick of her wand a few were pulled from the stack and formed a second pile, and Harry immediately recognized that it was his modest collection of dark arts books. She tapped the spine of Nearly Undetectable Curses and Hexes with her wand. “I particularly enjoyed this one when I was your age.”

Harry let out a laugh. “It was -” He froze. He’d nearly said that it had been a favorite of Sirius’s, as well, but he remembered Tonks was still standing at his door. He glanced over his shoulder, feeling a tad alarmed.

Tonks merely snapped her gum . “Don’t worry,” she said, shrugging. “My lips are sealed.” Then her face screwed up in consideration. “About your book collection, anyway. I am gonna have to tell Dumbledore that we came and got you.”

Harry could help the scowl that suddenly appeared on his face. “Right,” he said gruffly. After the way he and Dumbledore had left things in his office, Harry still felt a string of betrayal at the headmaster’s name. “I suppose that’s your job.” It came out a bit nastier than he’d intended.

“But Dumbledore’s conveniently away right now,” Tonks continued, cheerfully ignoring Harry’s sour demeanor. “I have no idea where he is, so he’s not there for me to tell.” Harry could have sworn her hair lightened a shade or two as she grinned widely at him. “You probably have at least a day or two before he finds out.”

“Could you just… make it as long as possible?” Harry asked sourly.

“I know that Dumbledore isn’t fond of the dark arts, and he couldn’t have been pleased by what you did at the Ministry,” Andromeda said, “but you seem unusually… resentful of him.”

Harry merely let out a grunt, crossing his arms, shooting Tonks another glance. She must have told her mother what had unfolded in the Department of Mysteries, he realized.

“It is not wise to make an enemy of Albus Dumbledore, Harry.”

Harry gave a heaving sigh at Andromeda’s words. “He’s not an enemy,” he said. “He just… kept some things from me that he shouldn’t have. I don’t really feel like talking with him yet.”

Andromeda let out a hum. “Well, we can delay as long as possible, but not forever.” She waved her wand once more and his things sank neatly into his trunk. Even though everything seemed to be organized and it did appear the lid would close, it still looked overfull.

Harry sighed, glad of an opportunity to change the subject from Dumbledore. “I suppose I should probably… get rid of some stuff,” he said. “Or else get a bigger trunk.”

“That is quite unnecessary,” Andromeda said, closing the trunk with one more elegant turn of her wand. “It’s nothing some basic expansion charms won’t fix.” She levitated the trunk in front of her and raised an eyebrow at Harry. “Unless you wish to go shopping for a new trunk, that is?” she asked.

Harry shook his head, feeling mildly relieved.

“Very well,” Andromeda said with a nod. “Nymphadora, if you would please lead the way?”

***

Almost as soon as they arrived at a humble, clean, and clearly wizarding home, Tonks bid them a good night, leaving for her own flat.

Andromeda immediately ushered a bewildered Harry up the stairs, directing him to the bathroom. As soon as he entered a heady scent hit his senses, and his nostrils instinctively flared, as if trying to capture as much of the intoxicating aroma as he could. It smelled alien and wonderful.

“I gave up many luxuries that I had in my youth when I married Ted,” Andromeda said, “but one that I refused to let go of was a nice, hot bath.”

Harry peered into the steaming tub and spied flecks of what looked like herbs and flowers floating in the hot water. Despite the plants - or perhaps because of - it certainly looked inviting. He hadn’t had any desire to take a bath until he’d entered the bathroom, and he didn’t think he could refuse Andromeda’s offer even if he’d wanted to.

Even so, he was more than a little confused. “Uh…”

Andromeda reached into a cabinet and pulled out a jar full of even more herbs, and she placed it on the edge of the bathtub before turning back to Harry. “We do have much to discuss, Harry,” she said. “But it is nearing midnight, and it is vital that you are in the bath before the clock turns.”

“What?” Harry asked, tearing his gaze from her and back to the herb filled water. “Is this…” He was struck with a bolt of clarity. “What kind of magic is this?”

Andromeda smirked at him. “A little dark concoction combined with some clever potions.” She pulled a towel out of the same cabinet, draping it over a rack off the wall. “This bath will remove any tracking magic that has been placed upon your person.”

A chill went down Harry’s spine at her words. “Who do you think is tracking me?” he asked, alarmed.

The look Andromeda gave him spoke volumes; she clearly thought it was an absurd question for him to ask. “The Ministry, of course,” she said. “We are going to rid you of that irritating little spell that detects underage magic.”

Harry’s eyes widened.

“I am a firm believer that children should be able to defend themselves unmolested, especially in a time of war,” Andromeda continued. “And although there was a stay in the war when she was a child, I did the same thing for Nymphadora when she was much younger than you are now.” She set her jaw. “I would not have strangers monitoring my daughter’s movements or behavior.”

“I…” Harry paused, swallowing. “Thank you.”

“You are welcome,” Andromeda responded. She then gestured to the jar of herbs resting on the side of the bath. “You are to pour that entire jar into the bath at the stroke of midnight.” She pointed over her shoulder at a clock that was on the wall.

Harry nodded. “Do I need to… say anything? Or have my wand with me?” he asked.

“You can say whatever you wish, but it will not help or hinder the effect,” Andromeda said, amusement dancing in her eyes. “I’ve already enchanted the herbs for you.” She paused. “And I would not recommend taking your wand in the bath. The trace is on you, not your wand. It detects magic that is used in your proximity.”

“Then… then why were you able to use magic to pack my things?” Harry asked, confused.

“Because we filed a writ with the Ministry that we would be coming to call at your house,” Andromeda said. “It is a basic form, and it’s mostly automated. It is rarely monitored.” Her expression soured. “It is a bad policy that is very badly enforced, which is all the more reason to be rid of it. It is also a weak spell that is easily fooled, and it is not much more difficult to be rid of it.” She pointed at the bath. “Now get in.”

She turned to leave but paused by the door. “After you pour the herbs in the bath, take the time to relax, Harry,” she said softly. “You have a difficult summer ahead of you, and you should savor these moments of stillness while you can.” She offered him a warm smile. “I will see you in the morning.”

***

He’d taken Andromeda’s advice to heart. Harry had nearly fallen asleep in the bath, only just managing to drag himself out of the water and into the cozy bedroom across the hall. The sheets were crisp and cool against his overly warm skin, and their fresh scent soon lulled him into the best rest he’d had in months.

He allowed himself to wake slowly the following morning, awareness lazily drifting back into his mind. He stretched and absently wondered if the tranquility he was feeling was a side-effect of the whatever magic had been in the enchanted bath or if it was merely the bath itself. He quickly decided he didn’t particularly care and he dawdled as he dressed despite an underlying excitement at being able to spend time with Andromeda. He’d grown quite fond of her through their exchange of letters throughout the last year.

When Harry descended the stairs and entered the dining room, a man sitting at the table peered over the top of The Daily Prophet at him, and he lowered it to reveal a bright smile. “Harry, I take it?” the man said. “I’m Ted, Dromeda’s husband.”

“Hullo,” Harry said in greeting as he took in the man’s appearance. He had dark brown, almost black hair that was peppered with silver, and oddly electric honey-brown eyes that were accented with crow’s feet. Those, combined with the light wrinkles on his cheeks, told Harry that he likely spent a lot of his time smiling.

“Have a seat,” Ted said, gesturing to the chair across from him. “Dromeda will be out with breakfast soon.”

As if on cue, a steaming cup was set down in front of Harry. “Tea for you, because you are most likely a normal wizard,” Andromeda said as she placed a mug in front of Ted, “unlike my husband, who prefers to drink powdered, artificial beans.”

Harry let out a laugh. “What?”

“Instant coffee,” Ted said appreciatively. He lifted the mug and saluted Andromeda with it. “Gives me everything I need to start my day.”

“I respect many things Muggles have created, but your ‘instant coffee’ is an abomination,” Andromeda responded. Ted merely laughed at her retreating back.

As Harry scooped some sugar into his tea, Ted raised the Prophet again, and the front page immediately caught Harry’s eye.

Two photos laid in contrast to one another. On the left was Cornelius Fudge, looking lumpy, rumpled, and overly distressed. The right photo portrayed a man that Harry had never seen; Harry’s first thought was that he was stern, grim, and tough. Piercing eyes shone from underneath unusually bushy eyebrows, and although it was just the usual wizarding photo, Harry felt as if the man was staring straight at him.

“‘Ministry Changes Hands Tomorrow,’” Harry murmured, scarcely aware that he read the headline out loud. “Who is he?” he asked. “Who is the new Minister, I mean?”

“Rufus Scrimgeour,” Ted said, closing the paper and shoving it across the table towards Harry. “He was Head Boy when Andromeda and I were just firsties.” He slurped at his coffee before shaking his head. “He was always a bit of a prick.”

Harry quickly skimmed the article, learning that Scrimgeour had been the Head of the Auror Office, and was now due to take over the post of Minister for Magic from Fudge.

“That is why Andromeda wanted to come get you before she originally planned to,” Ted said.

“What? Why?”

“Because as soon as Fudge is no longer in power,” Andromeda said as she placed a plate of eggs in front of Harry, “the order of secrecy he placed on his Aurors will become void.”

Harry blinked at her before he realized what she was referring to. When they were in the Department of Mysteries, Harry had confessed to using the dark arts. In a surprise move, Fudge had ordered everyone that had heard Harry’s confession to stay silent. Although his memory was a bit hazy due to everything that had happened that night, Harry knew that at least a dozen Aurors and other Ministry officials had been present.

And because Harry was Harry Potter, someone was almost certainly going to tell the Prophet what he’d said.

“But the only thing any of them saw me do was -”

Andromeda held up a hand, shushing him. “Breakfast first, Harry.”

Harry nearly protested, but it only took one look from Andromeda before he realized that arguing with her would be about as useful as arguing with Professor McGonagall.

It only occurred to him while he was eating that Andromeda may have quieted him because her husband might not have known about his use of the dark arts, much less her own. Andromeda had told Harry that while her family knew she was a dark witch, she had led them to believe that she no longer used the dark arts.

After they were finished with breakfast, Harry and Ted helped Andromeda clean the table and the adjacent kitchen, though Harry noted with some amusement that every surface that he and Ted wiped down would be cleaned again by Andromeda. Ted noticed Harry watching her do this every time without fail, and he smiled and shook his head at Harry in a silent plea for him to not mention it.

As the last plates and mugs were whisked away into the cupboards, Ted gave Andromeda a fond kiss on the cheek. “I’ll leave you two be,” he said. “I’ve got a long shift today, so I won’t be back until late tonight.” He looked between Harry and Andromeda. “Don’t sacrifice any goats to the moon while I’m gone.”

Harry stared at him in bewilderment while Andromeda let out a laugh. Ted waved to Harry, and then he was gone.

“‘Sacrifice goats?’” Harry asked. “What does he think we’re doing, exactly?”

“He used to make the same terrible jokes when I first told him I was a dark witch,” Andromeda said, shaking her head. “Unfortunately, he’s decided to bring those jokes back when I told him and my daughter that I wanted to start practicing openly again.”

Harry’s eyebrows shot upwards, and he then remembered some of the comments that Tonks had made the previous night. “They… seem to be taking it well.”

Andromeda nodded. “I’ll admit that the conversation went better than I expected it to,” she said. “Nymphadora is a bit more conflicted than Ted, but that’s to be expected. Aurors are most well known for apprehending dark wizards, whereas Ted has dedicated his life to helping all witches and wizards, regardless of what magic they practice.”

That oddly reminded Harry of the reason why he declared for the dark on Beltane; it had been symbolic of the fact that he wanted to protect all wizards, light and dark alike. “What does Ted do?”

“He is a Mediwizard,” Andromeda said. “He would eventually like to be a Healer, but he says he doesn’t have the patience to study for the extra exams.” She shook her head. “I think it’s because Mediwizards will be called to wherever they’re needed. Healers have those in need come to them. Truthfully, I believe he would be bored if he were forced to stay in one spot.” A fond smile graced her features before she put the kettle on and pulled two teacups out of the cupboard they’d just gone into.

“We may have only days, Harry. The news of your use of the dark arts will soon break,” she said. Her tone of voice had instantly shifted from light and amused to stern and grim. “It would be wise of you to decide how you want to respond before it does.” She gestured for him to take a seat on one of the stools by the kitchen island.

Harry blinked at the abrupt change of subject. “I… yeah,” he said with a sigh, plopping down on the stool. “Dumbledore said it would be allowed since we’re technically at war again, but…”

“But you are an unusually public figure, and everyone is going to have an opinion on what it means,” Andromeda said, sitting down across from him.

“What do you think I should do?”

Andromeda immediately shook her head. “I will not be making any of your decisions for you, Harry,” she said. “I am known for wanting to make my own decisions. And do you think I would have chosen that my daughter be an Auror had I made decisions for her?” She clasped her hands in front of her, fixing Harry with a rigid look. “What you do is entirely up to you.”

“But I have no idea what to do!” Harry protested feebly. And it was true - although he’d known for a few weeks that the news could break at any moment, now that it was imminent he found himself at a loss. He let out a huff, slouching down and resting his chin on his arms. “I’m used to just…” He trailed off.

“... dealing with things after they’ve already happened?” Andromeda finished for him. “Being reactive instead of proactive is quite Gryffindor of you.”

Harry felt simultaneously annoyed and uneasy. He’d grown to hate the fact that every witch and wizard he knew put so much stock into their Hogwarts house. “Why do we all have to be put into stupid little boxes?” he grumbled. “A house shouldn’t define us.”

Andromeda let out a laugh. “That is quite correct,” she said. “Our house values aren’t meant to characterize who we are as people. We are merely meant to exemplify those values through our actions. The values are a guideline for how we approach our lives.”

As usual, Andromeda’s explanations spoke deeply to Harry and his annoyance quickly drained out of him, but he was still left feeling unsettled. After all, what had he told himself, and later Daphne, at the end of the school year?

It was time to let the Gryffindor go.

It was his Gryffindor approach to life that had led him to taking his friends to the Ministry. It had led to the upheaval of his roommates’ lives, resulting in the arrest of their fathers. It had led to his own godfather being arrested.

It had led to the very problem he was facing now.

“Slytherins are adaptable to change, and we are even more adaptable when we can anticipate that change,” Andromeda continued. “And I believe it is safe to say that things are about to change greatly for you.”

Harry nodded, sitting up.

“Again, I will not make your decisions for you,” Andromeda said. “But what we can do is go through your options.”

“I’m not even sure what those options are,” Harry said quietly.

Andromeda stood to take the kettle off. “The first option would be to do nothing,” she said. “The news makes it to the wizarding world, but you never respond to it. Your silence would result in rumors following you wherever you go, likely for the rest of your life.”

“That’s nothing new,” Harry said, scowling. “There was a rumor flying around school last year that I was trying to be the next Dark Lord.”

“And silence would result in that rumor spreading beyond Hogwarts,” Andromeda said, confirming his suspicions. “Is that what you want?”

Harry shook his head.

“The next option would require lying,” Andromeda continued as she poured the hot water into the teapot. “Deny that you said anything. Claim that the Ministry officials that heard your words are merely slandering you.”

Harry heaved out a sigh. “And that’s nothing new, either. That’s what they spent all of last year doing.”

“That option may have some merit, then,” Andromeda said. “Most of the wizarding world now realizes that the Ministry was trying to discredit you when you said that You-Know-Who had returned. You could lead them to believe that it was simply more of the same.”

Harry shrugged. It could work, but it didn’t sound very appealing.

“The third option would be to tell the truth of what you did at the Ministry, but lie about what you intend to do going forward.” She placed the teapot on the island and turned back to retrieve the cups and saucers. “You claim that you had just been dabbling in the dark arts, and that you feel absolutely terrible about it and you’ll never do it again.” She sounded amused at that, and Harry supposed that it was because it was similar to what she’d told her husband years ago.

“I don’t think that would go over very well, either. I’d just wind up with the same rumors as if I did nothing,” Harry responded. “To be honest, none of these sound very good.” He let out another sigh.

“The other option is to do what we briefly spoke about last year.” Andromeda placed a teacup in front of Harry, again taking the seat across from him. “It is the highest risk, but could also lead to the highest reward.”

Harry didn’t even have to ask what she was referring to. “Going public,” he said. “I admit everything, including the fact that I am a dark wizard.”

Andromeda nodded.

“It’s been mentioned to me more times than I can count,” Harry said. “It’s just… what if it backfires? That would probably lead to even more rumors about me trying to replace Voldemort.”

Andromeda leaned forward. “Harry, I am going to ask you a question that I’ve asked you before,” she said. “I just want to know if your answer has changed.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Okay.”

“What do you want more than anything else?”

“I want to defeat... Voldemort,” Harry said, but even as the words came out of his mouth they felt wrong, and he knew Andromeda could tell.

“Is that the truth?” Andromeda asked, her tone sharp.

“I…” Harry paused. “I’m supposed to.”

“You’re supposed to defeat him, or you’re supposed to want to defeat him?”

Harry shrugged. “Both, I guess,” he said. “There’s a stupid prophecy and everything. If I don’t kill him, he kills me.”

Andromeda’s eyes widened. “I’ve never put much stock into Divination,” she said, her voice sounding tight, “and I don’t think a prophecy should get to make your decisions for you, either.”

“But he does need to go down,” Harry said. “I know that. He’s caused so much… death and destruction and pain. He needs to be stopped.”

“I don’t disagree,” Andromeda said.

“And what he’s doing isn’t exactly doing any favors for… people like us,” Harry continued. “Dark witches and wizards, I mean.”

“Yet the dark community flocks to him,” Andromeda said, “because they believe his victory would allow them to stop hiding who they are.”

Harry frowned. “I don’t want to hide, but I definitely don’t want him to win,” he said quietly. “He can’t be allowed to win.” He shook his head. “And I know that my going public could show dark witches and wizards that… they could have a choice besides Voldemort.”

“And that would weaken his support, which would weaken him,” Andromeda said. “We’ve spoken of this before, Harry.”

“I know,” he said. “But… announcing to the world that I’m a dark wizard could also just wind up with me in Azkaban.”

“That’s not an unfounded fear,” Andromeda said. “Many dark witches and wizards have been arrested just for practicing their magic.”

“Which is…” Harry trailed off. He paused, blinking, and his thoughts churned chaotically.

While Voldemort did have followers that truly believed in the superiority of wizarding blood, many dark witches and wizards went to Voldemort because they felt he would protect them. They feared the persecution and oppression of the wizarding world more than they feared Voldemort.

Voldemort was able to gain the power that he had because of how the wizarding world viewed the dark.

He was a symptom of the persecution, not the cause of it.

“I want dark witches and wizards to be free,” Harry suddenly blurted out, and his words felt far more true than what he’d said earlier. He met Andromeda’s eyes and set his jaw. “That’s what I want more than anything else.”

Andromeda’s lips quirked. She looked like she was trying not to smile. “Then I believe you already know which option to choose, Harry,” she said.

There, in Andromeda’s almost unnervingly clean kitchen, the decision was made. Harry was going to tell the world that he was a dark wizard.

Andromeda had certainly been right when she’d said that Harry was in for a difficult summer.