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Consequences of Choice
The next thing Harry was aware of was a sudden barrage of sights and sounds. All around him was chaos. People screaming, people running, people sending curses in all directions. Shocked, Harry realised he had arrived back in Diagon Alley, and from the looks of things, no time had elapsed. Sure enough, as he looked over towards Gringotts he could see Remus and Molly running over to the collapsed wall, stunning the Death Eaters at they went. As the black robed figures fell to the floor, what Harry was seeing seemed to slip into slow motion. Remus was frantically pulling away pieces of the collapsed wall, and Molly was holding back his frantic looking friends. Ginny and Hermione were sobbing loudly, and Ron was staring at the crushed body of his friend in shock and bewilderment. The whole incident obviously wasn't penetrating his mind.
Harry watched the unfolding events in numb disbelief. Never in a million years had he considered he would ever be watching his own death in painstaking slowness. The thing that surprised him the most, though, was Dumbledore. Seconds after the wall collapsed, the old headmaster had apparated in, sending curses in all directions. As the last of the Death Eaters fled the scene, the spirit boy watched as the elderly man turned to the scene of panic and immediately took in the situation. Harry, despite the grave situation, found himself amused at finally seeing the usually unflappable headmaster lose his composure. As Harry's body was carefully removed from the pile of rubble, covered from head to toe in cuts, bruises and blood, the head of the Order blanched and a tingle tear trickled down his cheek. Perhaps the most disturbing sight was the twinkle quickly fading from the sapphire blue eyes.
Harry didn't know what to do. He knew he was dead, the evidence was right in front of him, and anyway, Sirius had said so. However, his godfather had failed to mention how Harry was supposed to be defeating the Dark Lord if he didn't even have a body. Sure, he supposedly had the use of magic, but he didn't know how to channel it without a wand. Deciding that standing in the middle of the battle scene wouldn't get him anywhere, he moved over to the gathering of Weasleys and Order members, intent on notifying them of his existence.
Much to his dismay, Harry tried to place his hand on Hermione's shoulder and offer the distraught girl a little comfort when his hand went right through her. Looking at it in shock, he tried the motion again with the same results.
Great, he muttered to himself, I can't touch anything, and I can't perform magic. A fat lot of use I'm going to be!
With a look of determination etched on his face, he moved in front of Arthur Weasley and waved at him, trying to get his attention. Nothing happened. Harry's frown deepened, and he tried it again with a different person. He kept going, with the same results, until he had been around the whole group. Nobody could see him.
Bloody brilliant, he grumbled, Should have stayed with my parents.
With nothing better to do, Harry started to wander around Diagon Alley to see what damage had been done to the magical shopping street. All around him he could hear the sound of people crying and moaning in pain. The Death Eaters hadn't been there long, but they had done a fair amount of damage. Several shops were reduced to piles of smoking rubble, including the cauldron shop and the stationary shop. Eyelops' Owl Emporium had lost its door and a good chunk of the front wall, leaving owls flying everywhere, with tiny feathered bodied scattered on the ground. The Magical Menagerie had also been hit, and an assortment of creatures was wandering the devastated street aimlessly. Several fwoopers had gotten loose, and were annoying the Aurors trying to sort out the injured and the dead. Flourish and Blott's appeared to be on fire, much to the owner's distress. Even the shop on the corner of Knockturn Alley hadn't been spared. The worst by far, though, was Gringotts. Aside from the gathered mourners around his body, Harry watched as goblins ran frantically here and there, shouting instructions to each other in gobbledygook.
Eventually, some semblance of order seemed to be instated. The Healers from St Mungo's had arrived and were tending to the injured. The Aurors and several Order members were sending the onlookers home as fast as they could, and several wizarding undertakers had arrived to remove the dead. Harry watched in amusement as one of them tried to take his body away. Moving closer, he tried to listen in to the conversation.
Professor Dumbledore, I am a reputable funeral director! I can handle the body
I don't believe you are understanding me, Dumbledore said, patently, This is Harry Potter. The wizarding world has just lost its saviour, and you want to whisk away his body. I won't allow it.
Professor, I understand we are talking about the Boy-Who-Lived, or didn't as the case may be, but Hogwarts is no place for a corpse!
Harry will be returning to Hogwarts with me, Mr. Wallace. I don't care about your reputation, or how well you will deal with the body. Harry is going to the only place he ever called home, and I will not be bothered by meddlesome little men who want to gain a name for themselves on the back of a dead celebrity, Dumbledore growled, losing his famous composure. Harry was surprised at this. His death must really have affected the old headmaster.
I really must protest, Mr. Wallace continued.
You can protest as much as you like, Dumbledore grated out, You are not taking him.
His piece said, the formidable wizard pointed his wand at a piece of the Gringotts wall and created an illegal portkey. Taking it in his hand, he grabbed the corpse around the wrist and disappeared from the scene. Harry watched the whole process indifferently. After all, he didn't need his body any more. It was simply an empty shell.
Harry actually didn't know what to do with himself. He couldn't communicate with people, he was incorporeal, and couldn't perform magic. He didn't have anywhere to go, and he really wasn't sure what his next move should be. After wandering around in a daze for a while, he came to the conclusion that following Hermione back would be the best idea. After all, he wanted to end up at Hogwarts, but he had no way of getting there. He couldn't portkey, or apparate, nor could he floo there. Not having a body was beginning to be tiresome. He may be able to walk through walls and other interesting things, but it was hardly practical. Following any of the wizards, like the Weasleys, would be impossible. At least if he went with Hermione, he could get in her car and go on the Hogwarts Express with her.
Finding his female friend didn't take much effort. He simply looked for the shock of red hair that was the Weasley family, and found the brown haired muggleborn still wrapped in Molly's arms, crying her eyes out. Making his way over, he felt an ache where his heart used to be. He hated to see his friends so upset. Ron hadn't moved yet, and he still appeared to be in shock. Ginny had stopped crying, and now she was sitting on the steps of the bank, her arms wrapped around her knees and rocking backwards and forwards slightly. She was staring into space, a lost look on her face. Harry was sad to see this. Despite not knowing her very well, he was rather fond of the young red head.
Eventually, the Aurors made their way over to the group and asked if they minded leaving. After all, they needed to start on clearing the street and rebuilding the shops. One by one, the members of the Order Harry had been closest to drifted off, all with tears trailing down their faces. The Weasleys escorted Hermione back to the Leaky Cauldron and waited with her for her parents to arrive. Harry trailed after them, a little concerned when the brick wall closed behind the family with him on the other side.
Better get this over with, he murmured, before closing his eyes and walking forward. As me moved, he felt the strangest sensation of being not quite whole before he emerged on the other side of the wall. Opening his eyes, he looked back at the solid structure, a grin spreading across his face.
Cool, he said to himself with a grin, Imagine the pranks I could do
As he made his way into the pub, his thoughts were filled with ideas for pranks on the Slytherins. After all, if he was invisible and could walk through walls, he could cause a lot of trouble without the risk of detention. All he had to do was figure out how to touch things
When Hermione's parents finally arrived to pick her up, they were stunned to hear what had happened. When they heard the news of Harry's death, they both began to cry, hugging their daughter tightly between them. After speaking at length to the Weasleys, they led their daughter out of the pub. Unbeknownst to them, the spirit of the dead boy was still following them as they made their way through the busy streets of Muggle London. Looking around him at the people milling around, Harry found it hard to imagine that a battle had gone on right in the middle of them, and the Muggles had no idea about it.
The underground was a little tricky for Harry. He tried to stay with the Grangers as best he could, but when they changed lines he almost lost them. Fortunately he managed to jump through the side of the carriage as it pulled away from the tube station. Following the family to the car, he leapt into one of the back seats and waited for them to drive off.
The journey back to Oxfordshire was torturous. Harry could see that Hermione was upset, and the girl kept shaking violently. Harry was worried she was going into shock. The hardest thing, though, was knowing that he was so close, but could do nothing to comfort his friend. She was suffering a lot, and it was all his fault. Guilt filled him as he thought about his friends, and those he considered as close to him as family. Hermione, the Weasleys, Remus, Dumbledore. They were the people he was the closest to in the world, and they were all in pain because of him. He had jumped into the situation without thinking. He had become complacent, thinking he could win every battle without a scratch. He had learned that particular lesson the hard way. Now his friends were suffering for his stupidity. Looking at the shaking girl next to him, he was filled with a sudden sense of purpose. He may not know how to touch things, or use his magic, but he would learn. He knew it was possible; after all, Sirius told him he could do it. He would just have to learn how. It wouldn't be easy, but he had plenty of time. Time was the one thing he had an abundance of, and as he wouldn't need to sleep, he would have more hours than he did when he was alive.
With a new sense of determination, he rested his ghostly hand on his friend's back and rubbed gentle circles on it. Expecting it to have no effect, he was rather surprised when her sobbing seemed to slow and finally stop. With one final shudder of emotional pain, she leaned against the side of the car, exhaustion taking over as she slipped into a fitful slumber, her ghostly guardian watching over her as she slept.