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Clinging To Hope

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For Harry, finding out he was a wizard was overwhelming enough - but that he was a famous wizard for something he couldn't even remember doing was even more so.

But, even above that, there were the truths Harry had learned from Hagrid about his parents that changed his entire world: Lily Evans and James Potter were not married, they were not wife and husband. Oh they had been good friends, comrades in the fight against the Dark Wizard who had killed them - but they had not been in love. Lily's heart and soul had belonged to someone else - to another woman! A woman named Mariah Bishop; she was another witch who had come from a muggle home, like Lily had. They had met at Hogwarts, fallen in love quickly, and been together since. Married right after graduation - fought in the Order of the Phoenix together - and...had Harry.

A simple, magical procedure at a magic hospital, involving Lily and Mariah, and James Potter. James had helped the two women to have a child, one with both of their genes (magic really was extraordinary, Harry thought).

It was strange, really, that all this time Harry had thought himself a Potter, when he was in fact a Bishop (Lily Evans had taken on her- wife's last name, wanting to be a part of her family).

It was all so strange - and anger-inducing: His aunt and uncle had lied to him about everything; about the car crash, about James Potter even being Harry's father at all! Seeing his aunt's disgusted face back in that shack on the sea, as if she were on verge of puking, demented with it as she had ranted about her sister being a "depraved, ill-minded girl," and the host of terrible slurs she used (most of which Harry had no idea what they meant, he just knew from Hagrid's reaction that they were awful), as she scornfully told Harry it was better that he grow up thinking his parents were actually "proper and good", and that he should even have thanked her for not telling him the truth...

It wasn't a sight Harry would forget any time soon.

After a day in Diagon Alley, Hagrid led him back through the brick wall - back into the Leaky Cauldron, now empty.

Hagrid took a big look around, all the same. He made eye contact with the barkeep, then started to steer Harry toward a table in a corner.

"Think we've got time fer a bite to eat," Hagrid said, in a false cheerful tone that Harry caught on to immediately.

Harry sat down with Hagrid, gazing at the large man. "Is- is something the matter, Hagrid?" he asked hesitantly.

Hagrid blanched. He looked surprised. "Eh, well, Harry...the thing is...if yer up for it, there's somethin' else I'd best tell yeh. Something else you deserve ter know, and...somewhere you might want to go," Hagrid said quietly. "Yeh've learned so much already today - terrible things - I dunno if I should even tell yer this, but...you've got the right ter know. Decide if you ever want to..."

"To what?" Harry asked. What else could there be, what could be any worse than all these things he'd already learned?

"Harry, yeh know that Dumbledore an' the Order o' the Phoenix had the whole world believing Lily and James were a couple - that they went into hidin' with you as a family. It was a precaution, because you see, it was certain to Dumbledore that You-Know-Who would find 'em, and that if he did he'd- he'd kill 'em. Just like he did. So to make sure yeh could have at least one parent in yer life left if the worst happened...Lily an' Mariah agreed that Mariah wouldn't go into hidin' there with them. To maintain the ruse, yeh see? But it was also mostly for your sake. So she was hidden elsewhere instead, during that time."

"Hagrid, are you saying one of my- mums- is still alive?" Harry stumbled over the term (even in his joy, he did still find it was something he was going to have to get used to). "But then why wouldn't she have come and gotten me years ago? Why would I have been stuck with my aunt and uncle-"

"That's- that's the thing Harry," Hagrid whispered, tearful. "I'm so sorry. Mariah, she...the same night James an' Lily, and you, were attacked in Godric's Hollow, the Death Eaters had somehow learned about the ruse. At the last minute, musta, but they did, an they took advantage of it while they could. An' they went after her too. Found her in her hiding place. They attacked simultaneously, while You-Know-Who was at yer cottage. It was the best and most dangerous of his followers, all together - a half dozen or so. They knew they'd need everyone just to bring her down."

"A-and...did they?" Harry whispered, crestfallen and horrified.

"She held them all off through a combination of skill, luck, an' traps planted ahead of time," Hagrid spoke on. "Took a few of 'em out, even. But they brought in reinforcements, an' any of hers weren't going to be there any time soon. It was half an hour or so later, when You-Know-Who was destroyed by whatever happened in Godric's Hollow. I told yeh, people came outta trances - cursed and bewitched to follow him, a lotta people were. Some of 'em were forced to participate in the attack on Mariah. When they came to, they joined her in fighting against the Death Eaters, right then an there. But...not even that was enough. It was enough to buy time for the Order to send backup of its own, sure, but a lot of them died to protect her, an' by the time the Order drove off the Death Eaters...yer mum wasn't in any right shape for anything."

"What do you mean?"

"She was...cursed terribly," Hagrid sighed deeply. "Suffered terrible injuries through that fight, and toward the end, one of the Death Eaters got in a good shot on her. It was a curse straight to the side of her neck. Nobody knows what it was, just that it was something dark, and powerful. She fell right after it hit her, and then they collapsed the roof of the whole house down on her. It was some ruddy desperate, last ditch attempt to kill her, when the Order started turning the tides. She was out, dying, and crushed - but she lived. She held on. The Order got her to St. Mungo's - the magical hospital - an' they worked to heal her as best they could. After a few days, though, the Healers reported that she...Mariah wasn't...conscious any more. She was in some kinda deep coma - a magical stasis - an'- an she wouldn't wake. We waited weeks, months, and then years..."

"But she still hasn't...?" Harry choked, blinking rapidly as his vision blurred. His throat hurt something awful.

Hagrid shook his head. "She hasn't. But the Healers are always hopeful; there's always a chance she reacts to some kinda potion or the right spell - that they figure out how to counteract the curse - or just even...that she recovers enough to wake up on her own someday. Her own body, her own magic fightin' whatever curse they put on her. The chances are rather uncommon, but it's happened plenty o' times before. Plenty of cases where miracles have happened. Especially with magic involved, Harry. Mariah is still holding on, even today, an' you should too."

"S-so...so my...other- erm- second mum- she- she's just...what, laying in the hospital somewhere?"

"Yeah. She is. And...so, now you know, and, Harry, if you ever wanted to go visit her...just go and ask the Headmaster. Dumbledore would let you - he'd take you himself. Whenever you...feel ready ter meet her."

Harry nodded, wiping at his face with his sleeve and burying his head in his hands. "T-thanks, Hagrid..." He couldn't have ever expressed how much it meant to him - or the depths of the strange mixture of shock, grief, relief and joy, and hope and despair together. Opposing and tied up in his heart right then.

Hagrid patted his arm and did his best to comfort him.


Harry made his decision after two months - right after Halloween.

The first weekend he got, he spoke to his Head of House about leaving the school - his reasons for wanting to. She had gotten quite emotional herself, and had agreed quickly, to Harry's surprise.

Headmaster Dumbledore was informed, and Harry learned something new about magic: the Floo system.

The Headmaster showed him how to use it, and then they went through the green flames.

Emerging into a whole new place.

It was a hospital, all right. Magical and strange - but wonderful all the same.

Dumbledore led Harry through the halls, up a few flights of stairs.

Around a corner, straight on, and then they stopped at last in a new ward.

Right outside a pristine door.

"I take it you would like to meet your mother for the first time on your own?" Dumbledore said quietly, placing hand on his shoulder.

Harry nodded, finding he could not speak.

Dumbledore patted his shoulder, nodding down to him. Then, he let him go and stepped away. "I will be waiting - take as long as you feel you need to, Harry." He flourished his wand, conjuring a ridiculously plush, purple armchair near the door, which he promptly sank down into.

Harry gazed at the old wizard, wishing he could speak up and tell him he had changed his mind. But he couldn't. So he squared his shoulders, drew a big breath, and he reached for the door.

The room he stepped into was small, and simple - but clean and smelling wonderfully.

Harry's eyes immediately were drawn to the nice bed. To the blue blankets with patterns on them of magical, moving art of dragons. Fluffy pillow stacks propped the occupant's head up, as if they were just...laying there, awake and fine. But their eyes were closed, and their face was as relaxed as could be.

Her face...

His mum's - one of his mums...

The only mum he had left.

Harry shuffled closer to the bed, right up beside it. He grasped shakily for the chair there, and sank into it.

He gazed at his mother's face, up close now. So, so close...so...

Muzzled dark hair, almost like his own - cut short, with long frazzled bangs over her eyes. Full lips, flush skin and a bit of roundness to her features. He had been expecting something like- like a- well- a corpse. Gaunt, pale, bony...but she looked perfectly fine, healthy, even at peace, and...

Alive.

"H-hello, mum," he whispered, clasping his hands in his lap. "I...it's me. It's- Harry. I'm...really sorry I never got to see you until today! I didn't k-know - it was my- err- mum's- Lily's sister's fault! She never told me about you, she always said J-James Potter was my dad, that they were a family together. She never wanted me to know that my real family, my real parents were...well...I guess abnormal is what she'd call it. But I think it's brilliant! It's wonderful. And I- I just wish...I wish I could've known it sooner. I wish- you and me, and- Lily mum- could have just all been together as a family from the start. But...because of that war, Voldemort, we had to be separated, and- and even after it was over we've still been...separated."

Harry stared into his mum's face, wishing those eyes would open, wishing she would give some sign, something, anything...he was here, he was her son, she was his mother, this was a magical world! Something had to happen, to make it right - all okay again! Like in stories. Right...? A kiss...?

Harry leaned in, reaching out to brush his fingers against his mother's shoulder. To grasp at her arm, to just...hold her a minute. His mum. He was feeling his mother for the first time. Her flesh, her warmth, her...

This was real for him, suddenly. So, so real.

So horribly real.

"Mum..." he choked, squeezing at her arm. "Please..."

She did not move, save for the rise and fall of her chest.

"P-please, please just wake up, you can wake up now, I- I need you to! I c-can't go back to Hogwarts knowing you're just...here...like this! That you've been like this, this whole time! You could've been- we could've been- we still can, there's still time to, you just have to wake up, mum! Please, please, please!"

Mariah's face remained unchanged.

Harry shut his eyes as his vision blurred. The tears fell, burning. He opened them, swiping at his eyes as he looked into her face. He bent down over her, and he kissed her forehead.

He watched her face from mere inches away, for a moment of eternity - his breath held for eternity. She would open her eyes now, she would grasp his hand, she would take this big gasp of air and she would...

But absolutely nothing happened.

Harry released the breath he had held onto so desperately, and fell forward with a cry, his head falling onto her chest. He grasped at her with both hands now, clutching at her. He gasped and retched, and began to sob uncontrollably into her bosom.


"You can h-help her, you can wake her up! You- you're Albus Dumbledore, you found- twelve uses for dragon blood, you beat Grindelwald, you- Voldemort feared you, and- and- she was working for you, wasn't she?! For the Order of the Phoenix? You're responsible for her, you have to wake her up - have you even tried?!"

Dumbledore gazed at him with shimmering blue eyes, immense pain on his face. And sympathy. "Harry..."

"G-go wake her up, wave your wand at her and wake her up! Why is it so h-hard for you?! For any of you people here?! Magic can do anything!"

"Alas...I wish, more than you could ever know, that magic could do anything. But it simply cannot."

"You. Haven't. Tried!" Harry yelled, not caring that he was pushing and hitting at his Headmaster, at the great Albus Dumbledore.

Dumbledore grasped Harry's wrists with a shocking strength for a tall old man, and held him like that until Harry stopped struggling with him. Stopped trying to strike at him again. Then, and only then, did he speak again. "I have tried, Harry. I tried when I first heard the news, and I have tried many time over the years since. I come here several times a year, and I sit with her for hours into the night, and I try for her. But not even I have made any headway against whatever terrible curse it is that afflicts her! And I am sorry, Harry, I am so very sorry! If I could do as you ask of me, for you, for your family, I would do it in a heartbeat! But I cannot!"

Harry fell against the Headmaster, slack and exhausted. The man grasped his shoulders, holding him, kind and simple.

How could this wonderful world of magic be so awful?

How could it not have given Harry's life a happy ending, like in all the fairy tales?