Disclaimer: Not mine…I just play with them and make them happier for it.
Beta'd by Jadzia... thanks sweetie!
No Other Way
Shortly after Dumbledore’s death, Bill had been selected to oversee the group of witches and wizards fighting with Harry against the Dark Lord. The appointment made sense to Harry. Bill was a curse breaker, a man used to leading others in extreme situations. Who better to help disarm the things that held Voldemort’s soul; help defeat the slimy snake once and for all? Since the appointment, the group worked day and night, using the Pensieve memories left to him by Dumbledore, searching for the Horcruxes. Finally they caught a break and located Hufflepuff’s cup, hidden in the trophy case at Hogwarts right under everyone’s nose.
It had been a very long two months. And now, instead of pure elation at having destroyed another piece of Tom Riddle, another problem had reared its head. One would think the Fates were set against Harry not only defeating Voldemort but also simply living a relatively normal wizarding life.
Harry panted, thoroughly exhausted from destroying the Horcrux. “No kidding. If just killing a piece of his soul is this bad,” he said, wiping the sweat from his brow, “how the hell am I going to beat him?”
Bill stood up to pace, a trait that Harry had only learned about after working so closely with the man. “It’s almost as if,” Bill pondered aloud, “you’re blocked.” Harry sat quietly. His magic was blocked? That didn’t make sense. How could he possibly defeat Voldemort if his magic was blocked? “Did Dumbledore ever say anything about putting a dampening spell on you?”
“Uh,” Harry grunted, “not that I recall.” His mind was reeling in twenty different directions at once. He had to get to Dumbledore’s portrait and to Madam Pomfrey. There had to be an answer to this, had to be a reason.
Bill rolled his eyes. “It’s simple enough for us to find out, Harry.” Pulling Harry up by his hand, Bill asked, “Up to climbing out now?”
A slight nod from Harry and the two men made their way back down the wet pathways of the Chamber. Grabbing hold, Harry pulled himself up the ladder, back to the safety of Hogwarts’ upper levels. Using Slytherin’s lair for dismantling the Horcruxes had seemed appropriate; now, as tired as he was, Harry rather wished they were somewhat closer to a bed.
Grabbing hold of the sink, Harry wasn’t all that surprised to find the contingent of witches and wizards waiting for them. It was their first foray into dismantling a Horcrux on purpose after all. “Harry,” Hermione exclaimed, rushing over to help up. “Did everything work out all right? Where there any problems with the cup?”
Harry had barely managed to say hello before Bill emerged from the underground room. “Madam Pomfrey, please escort Harry straight to the infirmary. We’ve come across a rather disturbing issue.”
The glare Harry sent to the red head was lost in the bustle of the matronly healer. “Come along, Potter. You will be following us, Mr. Weasley?”
“I’m sure we’ll all be there in short order.” Bill replied, masking Harry’s grumbling about being treated like a child. “I need to approach a certain portrait before I can of use.”
Green eyes snapped with heat. “If you are going to talk to that barmy old man, then I am going with you. I do have that right, you know.”
“Perhaps,” Hermione offered reasonably, “we could simply ask one of the portraits to fetch Professor Dumbledore for us?”
Harry looked around the circular tower room again. He’d actively avoided this room following the Headmaster’s death. Too many memories assaulted him the minute the gargoyle stepped aside. It was bad enough chatting the man up through someone else’s portrait. With the upcoming meeting, he’d made an effort to arrive early and settle his feelings before the others were due. Blinking back the tears, he catalogued the changes, hoping it would stem the uprising emotions.
The walls were no longer filled with the trinkets of Albus Dumbledore. The shelves now overflowed with books and small figures representative of the new Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall. The pain of Dumbledore’s absence lanced through him again. The fact that the portrait had finally animated over a month ago and told all of the old man’s secrets, including those that exonerated Snape, did nothing to ease the ache caused by his loss.
When he’d joined them in the infirmary, Dumbledore had been truly shocked at hearing Harry’s magic was dampened. The easy way he accepted it, the blithe way he tossed out options and ideas had, just for a moment, reminded Harry of how much the man had annoyed him at times. Somehow over the past couple of months Harry had forgotten that little detail.
Hearing the stairs rotating, stone grating against stone, Harry shifted his thoughts away from his former mentor and focused on the upcoming issues.
As usual, all of the issues centered on him.
The door opened, revealing McGonagall along with several other Order members and several seventh year students. Bringing up the rear was Ginny Weasley, the only sixth year student in the room. As they filed in, all sporting questioning looks, house elves moved unobtrusively, providing several trays of biscuits and sandwiches along with carafes of pumpkin juice and tea.
“Please,” McGonagall started in her strictest classroom voice, “take a few refreshments and find a seat. This meeting will most likely run extremely long for a few of us so it is best to get started right away.”
Most of those in the room had passed through Professor McGonagall’s class, learning the art of Transfiguration under her guidance, and reacted to her ‘teacher’ voice accordingly. Nodding to Bill, she turned the floor over to the Head of the Order, becoming nothing more than a member. “Thank you all for coming on such short notice.” Bill’s voice rang clear and true, easily heard throughout the room. “As some of you already know, we made a startling discovery this past week while destroying the Horcrux held in Hufflepuff’s cup.”
“It appears,” he continued, moving around the room, eyes following his slow circuit, “that Harry is one of the few wizards whose magical strength is so great that his body dampened it.” Whispers filled the room. The implication was clear for those born and raised in the magical world. “For those of you who were raised Muggle, it means that without a mate to balance the power, to help bleed off the overflow, Harry will not reach his full potential.”
“Cor,” Ron said into the silent room. “That means Harry has to bond with someone.”
“Thank you, Ron,” Harry said sarcastically. “I’d have never known that without your help.”
“Harry,” Bill warned softly. He knew the younger man was… upset… by the circumstances. In all honesty, he couldn’t really blame Harry. Once again, a significant facet of his life had been taken out of his control. “Harry has discussed that fact with Madam Pomfrey, the Headmistress, and myself over the past few weeks. He knows what he’s looking at…”
“But, Harry isn’t even dating anyone,” Ron interrupted. Looking at his blushing best friend, he added, “Are you?”
“No, Ron,” Harry ground out through clenched teeth, “I’m not dating anyone at the moment.”
Bill stepped in between the two. Harry was working from a very short fuse and Ron… well he was being Ron. “It actually may be easier that he’s not. For his magic to reach its fullest potential his bond mate has to be secure and strong in their own magic. Not just any pairing would do, in this case.” Bill cut a look at Harry; the boy was calming down, the dazed expression that comes with giving up taking over his green eyes again.
“We called you all here,” Bill said, looking each Order member in the eye, “because you all are the unattached of our group. If any of you feel that you absolutely could not bond with Harry, knowing it is a life time commitment, please leave now.”
Silence engulfed the room while everyone waited. Not one person left the room. “Good,” Bill declared. “Now we need each of you to see Madam Pomfrey in the antechamber. She is going to simply test your magical strength. I’m sure that with Harry’s power levels, some of you will be released at that time. I believe,” he continued with a new, more serious air, “that it is unnecessary for me to remind each of you to tell no one of this development.”
Harry stayed in the Headmistress’s office while the tests were going on. Silently he looked out the window, pondering his life up to this point. Over the last month he’d realized something rather important. Tom Riddle was a very smart man; an evil bastard, but smart all the same. And, more importantly, until Harry unleashed all of his potential there was no way he could defeat the mad man. Bill, despite pushing Harry to bond with someone long before he really wanted to, was at least trying to give him a choice.
He knew that once Madam Pomfrey finished with everyone, he would get to choose who he would spend the rest of his life with. Granted, it would be from a very select few individuals, but he was to choose all the same. He didn’t fool himself into believing that Ginny would be one of those in the running. She was powerful; however, Harry just knew that his choices would be limited to men. In a way, he wished she would be strong enough. At least he was comfortable with her.
He had to prepare himself to have a male lover, a husband. Never once in his seventeen years had he thought he’d share his bed with a man. Well, outside of the normal wonderings of a hormonal teenager that is. After talking to Bill and Remus and Ron and even Hermione, Harry had finally come to terms with the fact that the wizarding world didn’t look as harshly on same sex couples as the Muggle world did. Remus even relayed that his father, James, had experience with the male population before Lily had tamed him.
That knowledge, while just a bit more than he would have ever wanted to know about his father, had indeed calmed him down. His parents wouldn’t have been disappointed in him if he found love, because Harry refused to settle for less, with a man. Now there was nothing to do but wait. Harry dozed a bit, trying to calm himself.
“Harry,” Bill called softly, raising him from his unexpected nap. “Are you ready for me to bring them in?”
Harry blinked a few times, bringing his eyes back into focus. “How many are there?”
“Four.” Heading back to the door, he added, “And before you ask, no I won’t tell you who.”
Bill motioned for those gathered outside to come in, one at a time. “Harry, this is Hestia Jones.”
“Um, hi,” Harry replied, toeing the stone floor nervously. Unless there was another witch waiting outside, all thoughts of having a family of his own were over. Hestia, while she was nice enough, was not someone he could spend the rest of the week with, much less the rest of his life. He snorted to himself. She might not even live out the week. To his eyes, she appeared as old as Albus. Then again he might just be a bit on the tetchy side right now.
Bill smirked at Hestia’s reception. He knew who he wanted Harry to pick. From Harry’s reaction, it seemed more likely with every passing second that Bill would get his way. A crook of his finger brought the next match in. “No way!” Harry shouted as soon as the wooden leg breached the door. “No way am I ever having sex with Mad Eye. Just the thought might have put me off sex completely.”
Harry blushed when he realized he’d said all of that out loud. “No offense, Moody.”
“None taken, boy,” the gnarled Auror replied, that damnable magic eye whizzing round and round. “It wasn’t like I was hanging my heart you or anything.”
Harry turned to Bill, praying to every deity that Bill had purposely kept the better choices for last. “Who else, Bill?”
Kingsley Shaklebolt stepped through and Harry sighed. At least the choices were getting younger. “Kingsley.”
“Hey, Harry,” Kingsley replied, his voice rumbling through the room in an almost comforting manner. “Surprised?”
“Nahhh,” Harry grinned sheepishly. “Already knew you were powerful. I thought you were dating that witch that worked at the Daily Prophet.”
Kingsley shrugged. “It’s an on again-off again relationship. More off than on lately.”
Harry nodded and turned back to Bill, indicating he was ready. “Let’s go, Bill. I’m sure these people have other things to do.” Silently he added, things other than decide who has to shag the Boy Who Lived. Glancing up, his mouth fell open as the last man walked into the room.
“Char… Charlie,” Harry stammered out, his neck and face turning, appropriately enough, Weasley red.