Chapter Ten: That Sense of Normalcy
The next several days went by in a blur for Harry. He had left the Tonks' feeling wakeful, for Andromeda had seen how exhausted he was and put him directly to bed. When he had awoken, the lady had given him breakfast, and they had talked of Nymphadora and Sirius. It had been sad, but Harry was gratified to have more memories of his godfather and his friend. He had not been sure what to expect when he returned to Hogwarts. The the reporters, prayer vigils, and protesters that were milling around the grounds had been a surprise. The Aurors and Ministry officials had not been.
Hagrid had met him at the gate, thrown his invisibility cloak over him, and taken Harry directly to Minerva McGonagall, who had already been named Headmistress. She had greeted him warmly, telling him, "You're a sight for sore eyes," before startling him by enfolding him in her arms. They had talked for hours. Harry could not remember about what.
And then he woke up in the Infirmary with no memory of having been taken there to absolute silence.
Must be a charm, he thought, sitting up. "Hello?" he called to the closed curtains.
They swung open almost immediately. "Oh, Harry! I'm glad you're awake, dear. I'm having quite a time keeping those Ministry pillocks out of the ward!"
"Ministry . . . officials? What do they want with me?"
The witch made an impatient cluck and said, "They seem to think you're required to give them details. I've told them to bugger off, of course."
Harry smiled to hear the nurse use coarse language. "Thanks. Where are my glasses?"
"On the table, dear. And your clothes are on the chair. You dress yourself and come into my office. We've a few things to discuss before I can release you."
Madam Pomfrey offered him cookies and tea when he entered her office, and he ate the entire platter and drank the entire pot before she spoke.
"Good. You need feeding up. Now then, you're perfectly healthy, but you do need to rest for the next several weeks. I don't want you gallivanting about to Ministry functions and awards ceremonies and funerals."
"Funerals. Oh. Who died? I mean, besides the Headmaster and Tonks?" he asked, feeling more heavy than sad.
"There's a list, Harry. I've brought you a copy of it," Pomfrey said, handing him a scroll. "There was fighting here, in Hogsmeade, at the Ministry, and near and in Riddle House, which is where He Who Must—the Dark Lord was keeping himself, apparently."
"Died at the Ministry," the nurse said through pursed lips.
Harry was relieved that he did not know most of the names, but felt guilty about feeling that way. "Who's in charge of the Order now?"
"Arthur Weasley and Professor Snape, dear. They've both been to see me. They say you're not obligated to speak to anyone at the Ministry if you don't want to."
"Oh, yes. Classes don't begin until next week. We're extending the term two weeks. Hogwarts was badly damaged, but repairs are underway. Your friends Ron and Hermione are at the Burrow. You've been invited to stay there. Would you like to go now?"
"Where's Blaise Zabini?"
"Ah," she replied, smiling. "I thought you might be asking about that young lady. "Blaise is here. The Slytherin portion of the castle was undamaged. Perhaps I should call her for you. She'll want to show you which parts of the castle are off-limits until the repairs are concluded."
Before the witch could get to her hearth, a voice called from the door, "Madam Pomfrey, is Harry awake, yet?"
"Come in, dear."
He flushed. "Hi," he said, and was pleased when the girl rushed to him and hugged him.
"I'm sorry, is this not okay?" Blaise asked when Harry stiffened.
"No, it's fine, really."
"I'll just check on some patients, my dears."
"Blaise," Harry breathed against the girl's neck. "I'm, I was, you're all right."
"I'm glad you're fine, too," she said, squeezing him back. "No one knows."
Harry pulled a little away. "About what? And how's your head?"
"Oh, that. I was struck by a chunk of stone during an explosion. I'm fine. No one knows about Pettigrew—his name isn't even on the official list of the dead," Blaise said, looking chastened.
"You did what you thought you had to do. It's all right."
"You're not mad? You didn't want me to do it. I . . . I didn't really hear that until after."
"I'm not mad," he assured her, brushing his lips against her forehead. "I was just worried about you. Have you told anyone about the torc?"
"No. I didn't think it would be a good idea. I suppose I'll just have to avoid dead bodies in future."
Harry chuckled. "I'm for that, as well, but you know . . . this is weird."
"What? Kissing me?"
"No, and we haven't had much of that, have we?"
"I'd like one, you know."
"So would I, but I expect there are things you want to do, first. I'm to tell you that you're to contact the Burrow at once."
"I will. It's weird that things seem so normal."
"Half the school's been blasted to bits, most of the 'mythical' creatures on the isle are dead or captured, you took Voldemort's body and then destroyed it, I reanimated Death Eaters, the war's over, Auror Tonks, Percy Weasley, and so many others are dead—what's normal about that?"
"I guess it's 'normal' for us, for our lives. I'm glad—that it's over—I just don't know how to act now that it is. And Percy . . . Ron's got to be upset, even though, maybe because of how . . . ."
Blaise ran a hand through Harry's hair and whispered, "Let's go see them."
"You'll come with me?" Harry asked, not quite knowing how to react at his feeling that it was important she do so.
"Of course," she said, giving him a quick peck on his cheek before releasing him. "Normal will work itself out in time, won't it?"
It will have to.
No one was surprised to see Blaise arrive with Harry, and both were made as welcome as any member of the Weasley family. No one pressed Harry for details, and they sat in the kitchen and talked sadly about the good things they remembered about Percy. It felt strange, but normal, too—like family.
"Well," Mr. Weasley said when things had quieted after dinner, "I expect you'll be needing to make room for a third, Ginny."
"Oh, of course," she replied, looking at Blaise.
"Nonsense!" Molly interrupted the girl. "Any friend of Harry's, isn't that right, Ginny? And you don't need to stay cooped up at Hogwarts when all your friends are here."
"Millicent's here?" Harry asked.
Ginny flushed. "Um, she will be, later. She's making sure her aunt's all right."
"Aunt Laura is the only Bulstrode who didn't follow the Dark Lord," Blaise explained. "She's quite a formidable old lady, but getting on in years. The . . . death of her family, most of it, well, she took it hard."
"Sounds like you know her well."
"She made me feel very welcome after the split with my own family, much as you have done, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley."
"Say nothing about it, dear. We're happy to have you here. Now then, it's late. You children should be getting to bed."
"Mum! Harry just . . . I mean—"
"It's all right, Gin, really. Just because I defeated Voldemort doesn't mean I don't get tired."
"Well, I'm not tired!"
"Good," Hermione said, brightening. "Ron and I were talking earlier about studying for N.E.W.T.s—"
"You were talking about it, you mean," he said grumpily. "I say we're entitled to a break."
"—And I'm sure you must have studying of your own to do, as well," Hermione continued. "Shall we set up here?"
The day of his Potions N.E.W.T., Professor Snape pulled Harry aside before the examination.
"Do you feel prepared for the examination, Mr. Potter?"
"Uh, well . . . ."
"As I suspected. Very well. You will do your best. Should you fail, I would be happy to provide you tutoring over the summer so that you might take it again with the group of students who were too injured to take their N.E.W.T.s today."
"That's very generous of you, Sir."
"Yes. Further, Miss Zabini has asked to see my daughters. I thought you might wish to join her, say, at seven o'clock this evening?"
"Students aren't allowed off grounds that late."
Snape smirked. "I'm pleased to see you remembering that particular rule now, boy."
Harry blushed. Of course. He knows why Blaise and I were—
"Mrs. Snape has taken up residence in the castle. Headmistress McGonagall has been good enough to provide us with chambers . . . above ground."
"I suppose babies do need fresh air, Sir," Harry replied, successfully keeping a straight face.
Snape gave a small nod of his head, and the boy could tell how pleased he was, in general, if not about having to surrender the dungeons.
"Medi-witch Kiernan said that your babies were beautiful. I'd like to meet them."
"And if the children had favored me?"
"Even then, Sir, but even you must be glad that—oh. Um, seven. Sounds great."
"Thank God you have no intention of becoming a diplomat, Potter."
Remus Lupin was present when Harry and Blaise arrived.
"Harry," he said warmly, "it's good to see you."
"Remus, I didn't know that you were at Hogwarts."
"Actually, I'm not. I'm helping Rosmerta mind the pub while she's—"
"'Incapacitated'," the witch called from her position by the fire.
She was cradling one dark-haired infant, and Professor Snape held the other twin. Both parents looked very proud.
"You'll never let me forget that slip, will you?" Snape said in mock irritation.
"I think not. Pregnancy is not a disease, Severus. Come here, Blaise and Harry. I think we could use a break."
Before he knew it, Harry was sitting next to Blaise on the opposite sofa in front of the hearth, and they were each holding a baby.
"So, which of your daughters am I holding," he asked the wizard. "'Victorious Defender' of 'Merciful Counselor'?"
Snape looked impressed. Rosmerta replied, "You have Vittoria. Blaise has Venitia."
"How appropriate," Remus said.
Harry felt like blushing, but he did not. He was growing used to accepting people's praise for his deeds.
"They're so lovely," Blaise murmured.
"Don't go getting any ideas," Snape said, looking alarmed.
Harry did blush then.
"Of course not. How could I marry, get pregnant, and be your apprentice at the same time?"
"At least you have the order partially right," the wizard replied, mollified.
Harry turned to look at his friend. "You're going to be apprenticed to Sn—Professor Snape?"
"Yes. We decided after the results of the exams came in. I like Potions. I think it would be a fine thing to be a Potions mistress."
"I'm sure you'll be the best ever," Harry said emphatically, before realizing his words might be taken wrongly.
"Blaise has the potential to be truly great," Snape said.
"What will you do, Harry?" Rosmerta asked.
"Oh, well, if I pass my Potions N.E.W.T.—"
"Congratulations, Mr. Potter."
"I passed, Sir?" Harry asked, thoroughly surprised.
"Severus! You know that's not true."
Harry laughed. "I passed, that's the important thing. I'm going to join the Auror Corps."
"What, no professional Quidditch for you?" Remus asked.
"Nah, Ron's going to do that, despite Hermione's disapproval. He's determined to make the Chudley Cannons and see to it they win for once."
"And Hermione?" asked Remus. "What will she be doing?"
"Hermione wants to become a spell-craftre."
"So more school for Miss Granger," Snape replied. "I'm not surprised, though I am . . . pleased that you all lived to make these choices," he said quietly.
"Thank you, Sir. We're happy about it, too."
Everyone laughed. Finally, Harry found himself walking Blaise back to her dormitory. The Sytherins who were left at school greeted Harry cordially, some even thanking him for what he had done, and then he was standing before Blaise's bedroom door.
"Never thought I'd be here," he said nervously, his heart beginning to beat faster. So pretty, he thought, tracing one of the braids coiled on Blaise's head.
"You really don't like it when I do up my hair."
"I like it down. I'd like to touch it."
"Would you?" she teased, brushing her body against his almost imperceptibly.
It was enough to make him wish for his robes.
"I've a hairbrush, you know."
"I've a hairbrush. One uses them to—"
"I know what they're for. Are you asking me to . . . brush you hair?"
The thought of being able to touch Blaise like that was almost too erotic to bear.
"Yes, Harry, I am," she replied, pressing against him a little more firmly. "I want to ask you to do other things, too, but I suppose I should give you one question at a time."
"You can give me anything you want to," Harry managed to say, as he ran his hands lightly up and down the girl's back.
Blaise grinned. "Well then, it's good that exams are over, isn't it?" she asked, before moving to kiss him.
Without having to worry about any interference, kissing Blaise felt like a miracle. Harry groaned into her mouth and slid his tongue along hers, jumping a bit when she playfully sucked it. It made something else entirely throb with need.
"B—Blaise . . . I—"
"Want to brush my hair. Yes," she replied huskily, "I know. Come in."
Harry had never moved faster in his life, and unwinding Blaise's hair, running his fingers through it, kissing it, brushing it, was the most amazing thing he had ever felt—until the witch made good on her promise to give him other questions, many in the form of requests, some as demands, but all of them things he found within his power to answer and grant.
They fell asleep in each other's arms, and when he woke up the next morning and looked at the sleeping wonder that was Blaise Zabini, he felt as though he were at last at home.
"Wherever you are," he murmured, kissing her face gently, "that's home."
"Is it?" she asked, opening her eyes at once.
"You weren't sleeping."
She blushed. "No. I was watching you sleep before you woke up."
"Sneaky Slytherin," he said fondly.
"Gorgeous Gryffindor," she replied, pulling him down into a kiss.
Breaking it long moments later, Harry asked, "You think I'm gorgeous?"
"Would I let just anyone brush my hair, Potter?"
"You'd better not, Zabini."
They were late to breakfast, and various commitments kept them from seeing as much of each other as they would have liked, but before their graduation ceremony, Harry found time to bring Blaise to the Owlery.
"Look," he told her, gathering her in his arms and levitating both of them up to the nest Hedwig had made with Silvio. "The eggs have hatched."
Four tiny, fuzzy white chicks slept against Hedwig, while Silvio watched over his brood with evident pride.
"I'd like to have children some day," Blaise whispered.
"No. I quite fancy having them with Remus Lupin—of course, with you!"
Hedwig rustled her feathers in annoyance.
"Well, Lupin is rather handsome . . . ."
"You sound like Snape when you do that."
"Severus has his . . . qualities, too."
"I am teasing you, you great jealous pillock!"
Harry lowered the both of them to the floor. "I'll show you what kind of pillock I am," he said, mock threateningly, smiling broadly at the girl.
Blaise shrieked out a startled laugh as he grabbed her, and soon they were chasing each other through the air—Harry flying by himself, and Blaise under the power of her own wings. All in all, it was a perfectly normal evening for the Gryffindor and Slytherin, and it ended happily with hair-brushing and soft words.
"I'd like to have children, too," Harry whispered.
"With Remus Lupin?" Blaise teased, snuggling into his body.
It was a simple thing, her teasing, and it made Harry feel more loved than he had ever been. Loved. Love. I do love you, he thought, letting go of some of the pain he had felt since killing Voldemort. I have loved you for a long time. Taking a deep breath, he said, "No, with hair as glorious as yours," and then tensed for fear his admission was too much, too soon.
"Oh, Harry," Blaise whispered. "Harry, I love you, as well."
"Trust a Slytherin to understand subtext," he replied, rolling over to kiss his girlfriend goodnight.
"That's a big word for a Gryffindor," she teased.
To celebrate their first Christmas as man and wife some years later, Harry presented Blaise with a silver-handled hairbrush with green bristles with the word "subtext" inscribed on the handle. They never explained what this meant to their children, but then, Dora, Sirius, Brian, Arthur, and Merva never asked. They knew well enough what it meant when Mummy and Daddy started talking about it being "hair-brushing time," and they often wished they had normal parents.
But the Zabini-Potter children loved to hear their parents' stories.