Harry didn’t want to go see the Healer, and he especially didn’t want to go alone. But he knew that he had to see him, and he knew that he couldn’t ask the twins to go in with him. He wasn’t a coward.
He could manage this on his own, he thought.
Harry left both Fred and George behind as he stepped into Healer Cartwright’s office. He stood awkwardly in the center of the room while the Healer, an older man with bushy grey hair and glasses, bustled around the room for a moment.
“Up on the table, if you please,” Cartwright said. He was tapping things with his wand and set a few quills up taking what looked like notes on a clipboard.
Harry hoped that they weren’t anything like the notes that Rita had taken during his fourth year. They wouldn’t be accurate if they were, and Harry thought it was probably important that these notes be accurate.
“So, Mr. Potter,” Cartwright started, his eyes only flickering to the scar once before dropping back to meet Harry’s gaze. “Have you been to see a Healer before?”
“I’ve seen Madam Pomfrey at Hogwarts,” Harry said. His voice shook a little as he said it, and he dropped his eyes. He didn’t want to hold the Healer’s gaze. He had trouble with it now, knowing that someone could be using it to peek inside his mind.
He didn’t know if he should thank Snape for that knowledge, or if he should hate the professor that much more for it.
“Poppy’s very good for what she is, but she’s not a proper Healer,” Cartwright said. He tapped something with his wand, and a flash of light almost blinded Harry. It didn’t hit him, though, so he didn’t start to panic. Not yet. “Have you seen a Muggle doctor, then?”
Harry shook his head, his shoulders coming up around his ears as he hunched in on himself. “Not that I can remember,” he said. He studied his hands in his lap and hoped that the conversation changed quickly.
“Never?” Cartwright asked, shock making him look directly at Harry once more.
Harry flinched and hunched over further. “Never,” he confirmed, his voice tiny.
“And the Ministry is encouraging you to be here today, yes?” Cartwright didn’t wait for an answer to that, just stepped closer, his wand held loosely in his hand. “Well, I’m afraid that this is likely going to be awkward for you. A first examination with a proper Healer is going to be invasive, Harry, especially for someone like you, who seems very guarded.”
Harry flinched again. He curled his arms around his stomach and tried not to fidget. “Can’t we just get this over with?” he asked, his question plaintive.
“We can start,” Cartwright acknowledged. “Do you want one of your guardians to be in here with you?” he asked, his voice a bit gentler than it had been previously. “I’m sure that they’ve both been to Healers before, so they could tell you if I’m doing anything untoward.”
Harry just shook his head. He didn’t need the twins, who were already being so kind to take him in, to know how much of a wreck he was. If at all possible, he’d rather they never saw him fall apart, but that wasn’t going to happen. Not since they both already had.
Harry flushed with shame at the memory of falling apart in Fred’s arms two days ago. He was a wreck, and sooner or later they were going to realize that he was too much of a wreck for them to bother with. He didn’t want them to realize any sooner than they had to, which meant that he had to do this on his own.
“I’m fine,” he said, his voice hoarse.
He wasn’t fine, as it turned out. By the end of the examination, he’d learned several things about himself. He was malnourished, to the point where it was affecting his magic and his bones and several other things, and there was something else wrong with his magic.
Healer Cartwright didn’t know what it was; he didn’t even seem inclined to speculate. He just asked Harry several questions that Harry knew he couldn’t answer about his scar, and about whether or not it ever hurt, or if it had ever opened up, and Harry just knew that answering those questions was a terrible idea. He couldn’t say anything about it, because what if the twins learned that he was connected to Voldemort?
They’d never keep him around.
And then there was the matter of his bruising, and the salve he was supposed to have his guardians help him apply at night. Harry didn’t think he could do it, no matter how much better it would supposedly make his bruises feel as they healed.
He trusted the twins, he really did, but he couldn’t imagine that inviting them to touch him would do any good. After all, Dudley hadn’t even needed an invitation before he’d…
It was a wretched thought, and Harry felt terrible just for thinking it.
He thanked the Healer quietly, took the potions he’d been prescribed for his malnutrition, listened carefully to the instructions for taking them, and for when to come back so that the Healer could look him over again to reassess his nutritional status and perhaps give him even more potions. It was a dizzying array of orders, and Harry hated it.
He hated it that it made him feel like there was something wrong with him, like he was broken, like the Dursleys had ruined him.
Maybe they had.
He left the Healer’s office shaking and overwhelmed, and when he found the twins sitting out there, he fought the urge to just crawl into one of their arms and stay there. He felt naked and raw, and the last thing he wanted was to go to visit with a different type of Healer.
“How was it?” George asked. His voice was light and gentle, and there was an expression of warm concern in his eyes that made Harry ache.
“It was fine,” Harry said, his voice dull. He held up the small bag the Healer had given him that contained all of his potions in a weightless, expanded pouch. “I have things I need to take,” he added. “But we can talk about that later. I have the Mind Healer next, right?”
“Right,” Fred said. He stood and pulled George to his feet. “His office is close by,” he added.
Harry nodded and let himself be led out of the Healer’s office and back into Diagon Alley, where they would find the Mind Healer.
Harry just hoped that this visit was less taxing than the visit with the first Healer, though he doubted it.
“You say that the Dursleys made a habit out of attempting to beat the magic out of you?” Mind Healer Peterson asked. Evan, Harry reminded himself. He’d asked to be called by his first name, said that it would help foster a sense of trust.
“Yes sir,” Harry said. He was seated in a comfortable chair, one that was probably designed to help him relax, but relaxation was the last thing on his mind. His hands were shaking, and he was doing his best to keep calm, but Evan was too close to him.
Harry really didn’t like that, but when he’d asked the Mind Healer to pick a different seat, or asked if he could pick a different seat, Evan had simply replied that this was the way that things were done in his office, and both seats were the most comfortable in the room.
Harry would have rathered sit on the floor than be so close to the stranger.
“And how often did they hit you?” Evan asked. He leaned further back into his chair, his frown so severe it almost hurt Harry to see it.
“Not that often,” Harry stammered. He looked down at his hands again. “My Aunt didn’t do it often at all; she’d more often tell Uncle Vernon about any problems I had during the day, and then he would hit me when he got home. Or, sometimes she’d hit me with a frying pan, but it wasn’t… it wasn’t like it was an everyday thing.” Harry swallowed.
It had been horrible enough without him exaggerating. He didn’t need to do anything to make things worse than they already were.
“And do you think that it was all because of your magic?” Evan asked. He was scribbling notes on a clipboard, not using one of the awful Quick Quotes Quills.
Harry could appreciate that, at least. “I don’t know,” he said, answering the question. “I tried not to talk about it around them, but sometimes things happened, and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t stop my nightmares or anything like that.”
Evan let out a noncommittal hum. “If you say so,” he said, doubt heavy in his voice.
It made Harry ache. “I couldn’t!” he protested.
“Come, Harry, you’ve already established yourself as something of a liar, telling me that they tried to beat the magic out of you. You made it sound like an everyday thing, when in fact it was far more minor than that.” Evan’s voice was chiding. “Surely you might be downplaying your own aggressions here, trying to make yourself look better?”
Harry’s eyes widened. “I wouldn’t,” he whispered. He wouldn’t. He didn’t have to. He hadn’t done anything to the Dursleys, he never had! It wasn’t fair of Evan to accuse him of… of goading them into treating him so badly. “I don’t even remember when it started; how could I have done anything to cause it?”
Evan made another noncommittal sound. “And I’m told that your cousin was aggressive, sexually, with you?” he asked.
Harry shuddered to hear the words spoken so plainly and he curled in on himself. “Yes,” he whispered, shame making his skin crawl. He still didn’t know why Dudley would have wanted to… with him…
“And what were you doing to make him do that?” Evan asked. He looked disapprovingly at Harry, his frown worsening. “You should know that you probably caused his death, with whatever it was that you did. And while potioning a Muggle isn’t illegal, it should certainly be frowned upon.”
“I didn’t—” Harry could feel his breathing starting to speed up, and he hid his face behind his hands so that the Mind Healer didn’t see him hyperventilating. Harry didn’t want to think about what this man would say about something like that. Maybe he’d say that Harry was clearly seeking negative attention, or…
“Please, Harry, you don’t need to lie to me,” Evan said, condescension dripping from his voice. “It’s painfully clear that you thought a certain intimacy from your cousin would help make things easier with your Aunt and Uncle. I certainly don’t blame you for making the attempt, but you must take responsibility for your own actions.”
Harry closed his eyes and tried to let the words wash over him. It should be easy; he was used to being around people that said terrible things to him. Both Snape and Umbridge came to mind, and it would seem that Evan was no different. Harry didn’t know why these words were hurting him when Umbridge and Snape never managed to hurt him as much as they probably would have liked.
Maybe it was because Evan was probably right. Harry had to have done something, otherwise why would Dudley have… Even if he hadn’t known what he was doing, Harry knew that he should be ashamed of himself. And he was. He’d done something to make Dudley hurt him, and now Dudley was dead.
And his Aunt was dead, and it was probably his fault.
Harry didn’t cry, but he only held it off by the skin of his teeth. He made it out of the office feeling more broken and defeated than he ever had before, and the last thing he wanted was to go anywhere near the twins. Who knew what he would tempt Fred and George into doing?
“Harry?” George asked, his voice light and gentle.
Harry didn’t say anything, just kept his arms curled around himself and shook his head.
“Okay,” Fred said. Harry felt the air stir near him, like Fred was going to try and touch him, and he couldn’t help but flinch away from it. Fred’s hand passed harmlessly near his head.
Harry stayed behind them as they started back to the shop and kept himself as small as he could. He wished he had his Invisibility Cloak, and wondered if the twins would be upset if he hid behind it for a while.
Not because he was worried about them, even though a small part of him was. It was just that it would be easier to hide if no one could see him, and right then, Harry desperately wanted to hide.
“We shouldn’t have done this all at once,” Fred whispered as they walked a little bit ahead of Harry. The slender boy wasn’t listening to them, he didn’t think, but he didn’t want to risk speaking too loudly. He didn’t want Harry to think that they were upset with him, because they weren’t. They were upset at the situation.
“I know,” George muttered back. He sighed. “But we had to get them out of the way. Harry had to be looked at and you know it.”
He did, that much was true, but should it have been all at once? Harry wasn’t talking to them again, and Fred hadn’t missed the way that he’d flinched away from his touch. Harry hadn’t been flinching away from them earlier, so what changed? What had they done differently?
Maybe they hadn’t done anything. It had started after the visit with the Healer, and it had gotten worse after the visit with the Mind Healer. Maybe they hadn’t been as helpful as they’d hoped?
Fred didn’t know.
He was glad when they reached the shop, which seemed to be doing just fine under Verity’s perfectly capable hand. She motioned them upstairs when Fred went to talk to her, and mouthed, “Your mother’s up there,” in between waiting on customers.
Fred stopped, then took a deep breath. He grabbed George’s hand to stop him before they went up the stairs. “Mum’s up there, Verity said.”
“Oh for—” George cut off and glanced at Harry. “One of us should go up while the other goes into the back room with Harry,” he said finally.
Fred had heard all about her encounter with Harry just yesterday, and he didn’t disagree with George’s assessment. Still…
“Your mother doesn’t scare me,” Harry said, his voice very quiet. “And if she has something to say to me, I’d rather she say it now and get it over with.”
“You don’t have to talk to her,” Fred said. He turned to look at Harry and wished that they could have this conversation somewhere a little more private. But the back room was on the other side of a sea of customers and their flat had apparently been invaded by their mother once more. There wasn’t a better place that this conversation could happen.
But Harry apparently didn’t want to have the conversation, judging by the way that he started up the stairs after slipping between Fred and George. “I don’t have to, but I want this conversation to be done with.”
Fred sighed and followed Harry up the stairs, trailed by George. As Verity had said, Molly was waiting for them in the flat, tapping her foot impatiently as she stood near the fireplace.
“Where in the world were you three?” she snapped upon sighting them. “This is why Harry shouldn’t be left with you! You can’t just take him wandering the Alley. Don’t you understand that the boy is a target and that you’re making yourselves targets too?”
“They were taking me to see Healers,” Harry said quietly. “Did you need something, Mrs. Weasley?” His voice was courteous, but Fred could hear the way that it wavered.
He wasn’t a violent person, not really, but he could have hurt his mother for the way that she was making Harry feel. For the way that she was making things worse, really, because Harry’s already fragile state was clearly getting even more so.
“You don’t need any Healers! This is beyond ridiculous, young man. You’re more than fine, and it’s time for you to give up this charade and come back to Grimmauld Place,” she snapped. She reached out to touch Harry, and seemed surprised when Harry flinched away from her touch.
George stepped between them, the motion smooth, almost like he’d planned it. “Don’t touch him,” he said to her, his voice cold.
Fred fell back and tugged Harry back with him, using the sleeve of his robe to do so. He didn’t want to set Harry off or frighten him any further, not when he was already so jumpy. Harry didn’t protest, but instead stared at George from widened eyes. He shifted slightly, and Fred was startled when Harry’s fragile hand found its way to his own. He didn’t try to hold Harry’s hand, not tightly anyway, just lightly enough that Harry knew he didn’t mind and would be able to pull away if he wanted to.
He was pleased when it made their young charge relax, even if it was just a little bit.
“Fred,” Molly started.
“I’m George,” his twin snapped. “Fred’s back there, trying to comfort Harry now that you’ve grabbed at him. You can’t take him, Mum, not while we’re his Ministry assigned guardians.”
“You’re being ludicrous!” she bit out. She crossed her arms and huffed at them, her cheeks starting to pink with temper. “Now listen here, both of you. I don’t know what you think you’re getting out of this, what kind of payout you’re taking from Harry, but it needs to stop! The boy is going to get you killed, just like—”
“Enough!” Fred snapped. He didn’t drop Harry’s hand, but did push himself between Harry and his Mum, even though George was already there. “Don’t you say that again. What’s the matter with you? Get out of our house, Mum!”
Molly’s eyes narrowed, and her fingers drifted to her wand. “The Order requires that Harry come back with me,” she said. She took a deep breath. “I know that I shouldn’t think the way I do, but you’re both my boys, and I’m so worried about you! You’ll be killed looking after that boy without the proper protections!”
“Better to die defending a child than to sacrifice him on the altar of a Headmaster’s doddering dementia,” George said. He drew his own wand before his mother could draw hers. “Now, Fred asked you to leave our flat, and I agree with him. Get out, Mum, and don’t come back until we invite you.”
Molly glanced from one of them to the other, then all the tension seemed to sag from her. “I’m just worried about you both,” she said, her voice plaintive. “And Harry, of course. We want what’s best for him!”
“No, you want what Dumbledore told you was best,” Fred said. “Mum, we’re serious. Go, and don’t come back until you’re done trying to force us to give up custody.”
Molly shook her head, then she disappeared into the Floo. In spite of their relatively easy victory, Fred knew that it wasn’t over. She’d be back, or if not her, then one of the other members of the Order. He didn’t know why the Headmaster was so determined to keep Harry in what was clearly a terrible situation, but they weren’t going to just give in and let the Order have its way.
If it kept up… “We might have to tell Rebecca about this,” Fred said.
George sighed. “Yeah,” he said, a bit glum. “Mum would be pissed if we got her arrested.”
“Y-you can’t,” Harry stammered.
Fred turned and found their charge’s eyes filling with tears. “Harry,” he breathed, and knelt in front of him. He could read the guilt on Harry’s face and hated the sight of it. “This isn’t your fault.”
“It is,” the boy whispered. He raised a hand to his face and scrubbed away the tears, but they kept coming. “You wouldn’t be fighting with your family if it weren’t for me, so it’s literally my fault!”
“It’s not,” George murmured. He stepped close, but, like Fred, didn’t attempt to touch Harry. “You can’t be blamed for the stupidity of adults, Harry. That’s not fair to you. We want to protect you, to keep you safe from anything, and that includes our own Mum, who isn’t being fair to you at all.”
Harry let out a broken sob at that, and he crumpled to the ground. Fred just barely managed to catch him, and held him close, soothing him and telling him that it wasn’t his fault, that he and George weren’t mad at him, that everything was going to be okay.
He didn’t know if it was true or not, but he was determined to do his best to make sure that Harry was okay. He glanced up at George over their sobbing charge and found the same determination mirrored in his twin’s eyes.
They were going to do everything in their power to make sure that Harry was okay, no matter what it took.
Molly tried to breathe evenly as she walked into the meeting at Headquarters, once more without the boy. Without Harry.
It wasn’t that she didn’t want what was best for Harry; of course she wanted the boy to be happy. But the problem was that she didn’t want him to be happy at the expense of her children, and Harry had already shown a remarkable disregard for the safety of others. If he cared at all about other people, he wouldn’t be flouncing about Diagon Alley in full daylight.
That was practically begging He Who Must Not Be Named to attack!
“You don’t have the boy,” Alastor said as soon as she walked in.
Snape let out a mocking snort. “I told you that he wouldn’t listen to her.” The Potions Master shook his head. “The boy thinks he doesn’t need to listen to anyone in authority. And those twins of yours aren’t any better. Of course they weren’t just going to hand him over when they probably think this is a great prank.”
“That’s not fair,” Arthur said, his voice mild. “The twins probably believe that they’re doing the right thing. It’s true that they’re wrong, that we need to bring Harry back under our control, but don’t blame my twins for this.”
“Your twins started it,” Alastor snapped. “And I don’t think that we can ignore that. We may need to disable them in order to take Harry from them.”
Molly bristled. “You’d better not,” she hissed. “My twins shouldn’t be hurt because of Harry’s foolishness! That’s the whole point of this!”
“No one should be hurt because that boy goes off half-cocked,” Snape pointed out. “But if it’s a choice between stunning your sons and taking Harry from them, and leaving them to their own devices and encouraging the Dark Lord to attack Diagon Alley, then I think we all know what we need to do.”
“You’re not sending anyone to hurt my boys!” Molly felt like she couldn’t breathe, suddenly. This felt like her worst nightmare was coming true. She still remembered the sight of that Boggart; it had haunted her dreams ever since its appearance. If her boys accidentally got themselves hurt because of Harry Potter, she would never forgive him.
“We might not have to,” Remus pointed out, speaking up for the first time. He was looking down at the table, not meeting anyone’s eyes.
“If you have an idea, Lupin,” Alastor said with an inviting gesture.
“I was good friends with Lily and James, as all of you know. As Harry knows. While he might not be willing to listen to Molly, who we can all agree might have been a bit excitable, he might be willing to listen to me. I might be able to get him to come to us without hurting the twins.”
Molly bristled at being called excitable, but she made herself relax. Honestly, if that was the worst thing that anyone could say about her, she was okay with that. “Can’t we try that first?” she asked imploringly, focusing instead on the chance that her sons might not be needlessly attacked.
Alastor nodded and scribbled something on his piece of parchment. “We’ll try that first,” he said. “The twins, from what I understand, would be difficult to take down in battle anyway. They’re quick thinkers, and we all know that Potter was training them last year.”
Molly hated to think about that, too. What had Harry been thinking, getting her children ready to fight in a war? They would never have to fight, not if she had her way.
They were her babies. And Harry, well, he was a good boy, she supposed, but he wasn’t her son. She had to put her family first. That was the way of the world, especially when war was involved.
Besides, Albus had told them all what would have to happen to Harry at the end of the war. She couldn’t afford to be attached to the boy, not knowing that he would have to die. Her heart couldn’t take it.
“We’ll be wanting to move forward with the trials of Dumbledore and Dursley soon,” Amelia said, tapping her wand against the parchment in front of her.
Rebecca didn’t sigh, but it was close. “I don’t know that Harry will be ready for that,” she said. “He’s very fragile. If you’ve seen the boy at all—”
“I was at his trial last summer for his use of the Patronus,” Amelia said, looking up. Her eyes narrowed. “He seemed to be perfectly fine then, and that was after his life had been threatened. Are you saying that you believe him to be in worse condition now?”
Rebecca hesitated. It was such a difficult conversation to have with someone who just didn’t understand…
“Ms. Mercier?” Amelia prompted when she’d waited too long.
“I’ve seen the side of him that you probably saw during that trial,” Rebecca said, thinking back to the resolve the boy had shown when she’d asked to speak with him privately. She looked up to meet Amelia’s eyes. “And it was formidable. But I’ve also seen him at his worst, sobbing in one of the Weasley twins’ arms. I think that if you truly want what’s best for him, we’ll get the situation of his permanent custody resolved before we start the trial of Dumbledore and Dursley. And I think, if at all possible, we should avoid having him testify at either trial.”
Amelia was frowning now. “That will make it harder to get any kind of conviction,” she pointed out. When Rebecca opened her mouth to protest, she added, “I’m not saying that we should have him testify, I’m just pointing out that we might need him to.”
Rebecca dipped her head in acknowledgment. “And if that’s the case, Harry needs a proper support network behind him. He doesn’t need to be worrying that he’s going to be ripped away from the only adults who ever fought for him.”
“Then you think that the Acting Head of the Wizengamot will opt to leave him with the twins?” Amelia asked. She made a note on her paper, then went back to absentmindedly tapping her quill on it.
“I cannot pretend to know what he’ll do,” Rebecca said honestly. “But I do intend to recommend it.”
Amelia nodded, then scribbled something else. “Very well,” she said finally. “We’ll do the custody trial first, get that out of the way, and then hopefully we’ll have enough left of the summer to give Harry a bit of a break before we put him on the stand to deal with Dumbledore and Dursley. You’ve got him seeing a Mind Healer?”
“And a regular one,” Rebecca confirmed, making her own note of the new timeline. “I’ll go check in on him tomorrow. His first appointments were both today, which I’m sure was draining.”
Amelia made a sympathetic noise, then pushed back from the table. “Keep me updated, Ms. Mercier,” she said, and left the room without waiting for a response.