|SIYE Time:5:43 on 22nd February 2018|
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley
Genres: Drama, Romance
Warnings: Disturbing Imagery, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations
Summary: The year after the war was a confusing time for the teen warriors. They had fought against the greatest evil - what was next? Follow them as they try to find out. Canon pairings.
Hitcount: Story Total: 84124; Chapter Total: 8220
Awards: View Trophy Room
I originally thought of this as a one-shot, but decided to make a multi-chapter fic out of this. I hope you enjoy my version of the immediate aftermath of the war. Thanks to my beta StephanieO .
“Ginny, you need to talk some sense into your boyfriend!” Ron called as Ginny walked into the kitchen at the Burrow.
Her boyfriend, Harry, was sitting across from Ron and they were eating cold toast left over from breakfast. Ron was looking quite angry; the tips of his ears were red.
Ignoring her brother for the moment, Ginny walked over and kissed Harry hello. She grabbed a cold butterbeer from the cold cupboard before joining the two boys at the table.
“What’s wrong?” Ginny asked her brother.
“Did you know he’s planning to testify for Malfoy?” Ron demanded, his anger surging forward.
“Ron, I’ve told you, I’m just telling the truth. He didn’t identify us at his parent’s house and his mother saved my life by telling Voldemort I was dead.”
“He’s a Death Eater!” Ron bellowed. “Why would you stick up for him? He’s been a git every year we’ve been in school, always trying to get us in trouble. His stupid schemes put Katie in St. Mungo’s for months and almost killed me.”
“I know that Ron!” Harry replied angrily. “I’m not saying he’s a good guy or anything, I’m just telling the truth. He didn’t turn us in to Voldemort when he had the chance.”
“So that makes up for everything!”
“No, it doesn’t,” Harry said. “I think he’s rather a coward who got in over his head and didn’t know what to do. He’s not a good guy; he is just looking out for his own best interests.”
Ron looked at his sister, “Talk some sense into him.”
She shrugged, “I happen to agree with him. Malfoy is a small minded, cowardly, little ferret, but he’s not the source of all evil.”
“How can you say that?” Ron demanded. “He is the reason Harry and the twins were kicked off the Quidditch team. He’s always insulting our family. He is a Death Eater, did you miss that part?”
“I was telling you he was a Death Eater for an entire year and you ignored me.” Harry pointed out.
“He’s a git,” Ginny said. “He calls people names and insults them. That is not the worst thing he could do, trust me.”
Ron glared at his sister unable to believe she wasn’t siding with him. “He just stood there while his aunt tortured Hermione! She was tortured, Ginny. Bellatrix threatened her with a knife and used the Cruciatus on her. He did nothing!”
“I’m sorry Hermione was tortured,” Ginny said after a moment.
“Then why are you acting like it’s no big deal? He should pay for that!”
“But he didn’t torture her,” Ginny pointed out. “Harry’s right. Malfoy is a coward. No, listen to me,” she said when Ron looked like he was going to interrupt her. “He was Head Boy last year and yes he took every opportunity to take points and insult me and Neville and everyone else he thinks is a blood-traitor. He didn’t use the Cruciatus on us for punishment like the other junior Death Eaters did, he did the same thing he’s done for the last six years.”
“You don’t understand!” Ron shouted his face almost purple. “Hermione was tortured and I had to listen to her scream. I couldn’t do anything about it. You wouldn’t know anything about that! You never had to listen to your friend being tortured and feeling totally helpless. You were safe at Hogwarts.”
Ginny’s demeanour changed immediately. “Don’t you dare tell me what I know and what I don’t know. You weren’t at Hogwarts this past year. I had to go and rescue Michael Corner from the dungeons after he’d been chained to the wall and tortured for hours. Malfoy may not have used the Cruciatus, but Nott, Goyle, Crabbe, Zabini, Parkinson, Harper — none of them had a problem using it. At first they would use it on us and then they started using it on our friends to try to force us to do what they wanted.
“I don’t like Malfoy, but trust me there are people much more evil than him. He didn’t offer the girls a choice between performing oral sex or getting tortured. That was one of Zabini’s favourite tricks. Crabbe and Goyle just liked to torture, they didn’t care who or why.”
Ginny’s face was red by this point and angry tears were filling her eyes. “I am very sorry that Hermione was tortured, but she wasn’t the only one. I think it’s more important to make sure the right person is in prison.”
She jumped up and ran outside. Harry stood and glared at his best mate, “Do you ever think before you talk? You heard Neville, you knew they were tortured. You have no idea what they went through last year.”
“And you do?”
“I listen to her,” Harry said, “instead of telling her she was safe at school and she doesn’t know what it’s like to see her friends tortured. You really have no idea.”
He hurried outside and quickly made his way to the pond. He found her where he thought he would, leaning against her favourite tree with her feet dangling in the water.
She had her head buried in her arms and didn’t react when Harry sat down next to her. Reaching out, he wrapped his arm around her. Slowly, she leaned into him.
“He is so frustrating! He, Mum and Percy have been the worst. ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about’ and ‘At least you were safe at Hogwarts.’ Please, they don’t even ask what it was like for me. Mum is going on and on about how poor Ron was starving while you guys were on the run. He’s not the only one. The Carrows loved to withhold food or only serve the Slytherins. Some weekends they would lock us up in our common rooms, if they were in a good mood they’d send up water and bread.”
Harry swallowed hard at the thought of Ginny being starved and tortured. He hated the fact that she’d been through so much. She was so good and so pure; she really didn’t deserve any of it. He kissed her on top of her head. He’d learned over the course of the summer not to try to fix anything or make her feel better, but just to listen and be there for her.
She lifted her head and wiped her eyes, “Did you know he tried to get me to refuse the Head Girl status for next year? He kept going on and on about how Hermione deserved it because of all she’d been through. Professor McGonagall chose me. She picked me because I know what everyone went through last year. Hermione is trying to pretend it never happened.”
“I know,” Harry said. “We almost came to blows over that. I finally convinced him he was being a huge prat and he needed to be supportive of you. I mean being chosen as Head Girl is a huge honour.”
Ginny smiled at him before leaning closer and kissing him on the cheek, “Thank you, love.”
He blushed slightly, “You’re welcome.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes before Ginny said softly, “Can I tell you something?”
“Of course,” Harry said promptly.
Ginny looked down at the pond, watching the fish swim for a moment. With her eyes still locked on the fish she said, “I don’t want to go back to Hogwarts.”
“I don’t blame you,” Harry replied softly. Reaching over he gently turned her face so she was facing him. “Whatever you decide to do I will support you. If you want to go back, I’ll come visit every Hogsmeade visit and every Quidditch game and any excuse I can find to see you. If you don’t want to go back, just say the word and tell me what you want to do. Do you want to try-out for a Quidditch team? Do you want to work on Diagon Alley? Do you want to stay home? Whatever you want to do I will support you.”
Ginny searched his eyes and found the love and acceptance she was searching for. “Thank you, love.”
Running one hand through her hair, Harry leaned over and gently kissed her. “I love you, Ginny. I am here for you no matter what.”
Ginny decided that needed a non-verbal thank you. Unlike Harry’s gentle kiss of a few moments before, Ginny quickly deepened the kiss. Harry pulled her close and slid one hand through her hair, the other hand slid up the soft silky skin of her lower back. Ginny responded in kind, sliding her hand under his t-shirt and quickly pulling it over his head.
She pushed him down onto the grass and quickly followed. Passion quickly sparked between them and he was lost in exploring her body as she was exploring his. Her shirt soon joined his on the grass. Harry rolled her over so she was lying on her back. He cradled her head in his hand as he kissed her.
As she slid her hands down to his jeans, Harry pulled back slightly. “Baby, we need to stop.”
She whimpered slightly at the loss of the pressure of his body against her. He smiled as he rested his forehead against hers, “It’s not that I want to stop, but I really don’t want our first time to be out here where anyone can find us.”
Looking up into his intense green eyes, Ginny had to smile. “You’re right. You just feel so good.”
Harry laughed, enchanted by her boldness. “You do too, my love.”
She grabbed his arm, “Soon, right?”
He nodded fervently, “Soon.”
Pulling his shirt back on, Harry reluctantly handed her shirt back.
Ginny lay down on her stomach facing him, she loved just watching him. After a year of not being able to see him, just looking at him made her feel better.
“Do you suppose Ron has calmed down yet?” She asked.
“I don’t know. His temper is so close to the surface these days, especially with Hermione spending most of her time with her parents.”
“I understand that,” Ginny said. “Everything is different. George is like a wraith just floating around the house, he’s not laughing or pranking or planning. Mum isn’t much better, but that doesn’t mean Ron has to take it out on me. He has no idea what happened at Hogwarts last year and he’s not interested in listening.”
“I know,” Harry said sadly. “He’s so angry that Fred d-died and combined with Hermione’s parents wanting her to spend time with them it’s making him angry all the time. He won’t let go of this Malfoy thing. I keep trying to tell him I’m just telling the truth, but that’s not good enough for him.”
“He wants to punish someone for what happened to Hermione, but Bellatrix is dead.” Ginny shot a glance over at her boyfriend. “I think he just feels so badly that he couldn’t help her.”
“I hate that you had to go through everything you had to go through,” Harry said. “I’m not yelling at him. I know I’ve never lost a brother, but I’ve lost a lot of people to this war. I want to help him, but I don’t know how.”
She nodded, “I know.” She lay her head back down on her hands for a moment.
“Why don’t we head into town?” Harry said after a few minutes. “We can go shopping and find something for dinner.”
Harry stood and pulled his girlfriend to her feet. The two headed off to town walking hand-in-hand. It was a beautiful warm summer day. The sun was shining and it seemed ludicrous that the world was so off kilter.
“How’s Teddy?” Ginny asked.
Harry beamed, “He’s great. I love spending time with him. He’s getting so big.” He glanced over at his girlfriend, “Do you want to come with me next time I go over? Andromeda asked me to come over tomorrow. She has some appointments or something to go to and she asked me to watch him.”
“That would be great.”
He squeezed her hand, happy to be able to share this with her. “Kingsley is being really great about letting me work part-time for the summer. I’m really enjoying learning more about the Ministry and the training is amazing.”
“I know you love the physical training,” Ginny said with a smile.
He laughed, “I do. It’s funny, I’ve always been rather skinny, but now I just feel like my endurance has improved so much. Seamus has been a great training partner whether it’s running or working out in the gym. I wish Ron would come with me. It’s a great way to get rid of pent up energy and work out hostility.”
“Do you think I could come with you?” Ginny asked.
“Really?” Harry asked. “You would want to do that?”
“Of course,” Ginny replied. “I mean I do want to be professional Quidditch player so I’d love to get into better shape, but honestly I want to spend time with you.”
Harry stared at her for a minute - he still wasn’t used to her wanting to be with him. “That would be great. We can start by jogging in the morning.”
Soon they were nearing the outskirts of Ottery St. Catchpole. It was a small, sleepy Muggle town. As they crossed the bridge over the Otter River, they waved to the few cars that passed. They waved to a father and son standing on the banks of the river fishing.
“It’s so nice here,” Harry said. “Surrey is so much more crowded and unfriendly.” He glanced over at her. “Where do you want to live?”
She looked ahead to the village, “I’m not sure. I like the idea of having a place out in the country.” She laughed, “I don’t think I want to be too close to my parents. My Mum can be a bit overbearing.”
“Godric’s Hollow was really nice,” Harry said softly. “It’s not that far from here, I mean relatively speaking. It’s a bit closer to Wales. We were there last Christmas. The town is really nice.”
“Would you want to live there?” Ginny asked.
“I think so,” Harry said. “I’d like to rebuild my parent’s house. I don’t know how much work that would be or if I should just tear it down and start all over again. I talked to Bill about it a bit when I was working in Gringotts. He said that I should hire an engineering firm to evaluate the building first and then decide.”
“That would be nice,” Ginny said.
He was silent for a few minutes as they crossed the street and headed towards the grocers. As they neared the store, Harry reached out to touch her arm, “Would you like to come to Godric’s Hollow with me and see my parent’s house?”
She looked up at him and she could tell how important it was to him. “I would love to come with you, Harry.”
“Really?” He looked pleased at her answer. “I was thinking we could go look around the town and see what’s there.”
She laced her fingers through his, “That sounds like fun.”
He leaned down and kissed her quickly. They headed down High Street and Ginny pointed out the highlights of the town — the Stationery shop, the post office, the pub, the bakery.
“Do many magical families live around here?” Harry asked curiously.
“A few,” Ginny replied a she waved to an older woman working in her yard. “The Diggorys, the Lovegoods, the Fawcetts, but it is mostly Muggles. Some of them are really nice, that lady used to work at the bakery. She would always fuss over me when I was little.”
Ginny led the way into the Butcher’s shop and greeted the older man behind the counter. “Hello, Julian.”
“Hello, Miss Ginny. How are you today?”
She smiled, “Good, I’m looking for something for dinner tonight.”
After some discussion, Harry and Ginny decided to get a pork roast and they picked up some extra bacon and sausage as well as some ham and turkey for sandwiches. They left the shop with several bags.
“What’s wrong?” Harry asked as they left the shop.
Ginny shrugged, “When I started ordering, I suddenly realized that no one’s been shopping in a while. Mum has always kept so much food in the house that no one has to worry. It just surprised me.”
“Do we need to get more stuff?”
Ginny thought about it for a few minutes, “Yeah, we should go to the grocers as well.”
The two headed across the town square for the grocers and picked up some other needed food and supplies for the house. Before they left the town, Harry pulled her over to the outdoor produce stand.
“Come on, let’s get some fresh vegetables.” Harry said. “My Aunt has many faults, but she’s a great cook and she taught me a lot. One of her big things was getting fresh vegetables.” He laughed, “Too bad she didn’t make my cousin eat more of them.”
“Isn’t this costing a lot of money?” Ginny asked anxiously. She’d brought a bit of money with her, but Harry had paid for most of it.
He shrugged, “Not too much. Besides, I’ve been staying there rent free for how long?”
“I don’t know. Mum wouldn’t be too happy about you buying so much.”
“Ginny, I have the money; let me do this for you.”
She looked up into his eyes. She knew her Mum wouldn’t like it, but on the other hand her Mum wasn’t around much this summer. “Are you sure?”
He leaned down and kissed her, “I’m sure.”
“Okay,” Ginny agreed. They picked up some summer vegetables. As they walked around looking at the
produce, Harry said, “The berries look really good. Do you want to get some berries and make a trifle?”
Ginny blushed slightly, “I don’t know how to make a trifle.”
Harry smiled over at her, “I do.”
“Okay.” Ginny laughed. She couldn’t wait to see him cooking. None of her brothers had bothered to learn how to cook except Bill. She knew Percy usually ate out, a few times he’d brought home take out from the Leaky Cauldron for everyone. Her dad would make sandwiches and Ron’s repertoire was limited to toast and beans.
After completing their purchases, they headed back to the Burrow in good spirits. They talked not of the emotionally laden topics of the morning, but about the town. Harry had to explain what exactly a mobile phone was and how it was used. She talked about trips to town when she was a child.
Upon reaching the Burrow, Ginny was glad that Ron was not around. She could tell her mother had been out at some point, there were now clothes on the line. For a few moments she was hopeful that maybe her mother was working in the kitchen as she was normally, but unfortunately she was nowhere to be found. Harry put the groceries away while Ginny started another round of clothes.
While Harry started cooking, she headed out to the garden to take the clothes off the line and fold them. She’d just finished folding the clothes when Harry brought out another basketful of clothes fresh from the wash tub. Together the two of them hung the clothes on the line before returning to the house.
Ginny was thrilled, she’d never had so much fun doing chores or cooking dinner with her mother. Harry somehow made everything more fun. She brought her books down to the kitchen so she could be with Harry while she was getting in some studying.
He was scrubbing the vegetables when she came back down. “When do your exams start?”
“Professor McGonagall said that we could contact her and set up a time, so I’m going to take my exams the beginning of next week.”
He smiled, “I bet you’ll be glad to get them out of the way.”
“I will, Luna is taking a bit more time. She’s taking her tests in the beginning of August.” Ginny shook her head, “She missed so much, but she’s really caught up well.”
“I’m sorry I missed seeing her the other day,” Harry remarked as he started cutting up the vegetables.
“She’s been coming over almost every morning,” Ginny said. “Sometimes Dean and Neville have come over as well.”
“Dean and Neville?”
“Yeah, Luna and Dean have been seeing each other.” She laughed. “I never would have put those two together, but they seem to be having fun. Neville’s getting ready to take his NEWTS, but Dean is coming back to school next year.”
“I kind of wondered about them. They got pretty close at Shell Cottage.” Harry remarked. “So what is Neville doing next year? I know he turned down a spot in the Auror training class.”
“He’s going to be working for a nursery that supplies different apothecaries.”
“He’ll like that,” Harry smiled. “He’s always liked working with plants. I mean he’d make a good Auror, but he wouldn’t like it very much.”
Ginny nodded, glad her shy friend was getting the credit he deserved. “I agree. Last year, he talked a lot about his plans for trying to raise certain kinds of plants and going on expeditions to the Amazon or India to find hard to find plants.” She laughed, “I’d love to travel, but I don’t really want to spend my time finding plants.”
“The Amazon would be cool,” Harry said. “I want to travel, I’ve never really been anywhere. Even this past year when we were changing spots every couple of days, we never really were able to look around. I want to go to France and Egypt and Ireland and all kinds of places.”
The afternoon passed quickly as Ginny read up on her Charms and Harry worked on dinner. He would quiz her or explain things from time to time, but they mostly just enjoyed being in each other’s company.
Arthur Weasley approached his home a bit wearily. He never knew what he was going to come home to these days. Poor Molly was beside herself with grief and Arthur knew from watching her go through her brothers’ deaths that she would be fragile for quite some time.
Entering the house, he smelled a delicious dinner. He hopefully turned to the kitchen, but instead of his wife he found his daughter and her boyfriend. They had apparently made a lovely roast for dinner. While he was disappointed not to see his wife, he was quite relieved to see what was for dinner. Harry was a surprisingly good cook and when he and Ginny teamed up they could put out an excellent meal.
“Hello, dear.” He said as he greeted his daughter. “It smells great.”
“Thanks, Mr Weasley,” Harry said shyly.
“Harry made it all,” Ginny said proudly. “I was just keeping him company.”
Arthur smiled at the love flowing between the two teens. He thought they were very good together and really anyone who could make his daughter so happy was good in his book. Molly thought she was a bit too young to be dating, but Arthur was a bit more realistic about the situation.
“Well, thank you Harry.” Arthur wandered over to the stove. “This all looks wonderful.” He spied the trifle sitting on the counter under a glass cover. “You’ve even made a pudding.”
“We walked into town and stopped at the produce stand,” Harry explained. “Everything looked so good, so I decided to get some berries and make a trifle.”
Arthur smiled, thankful for Harry and his daughter for stepping into the void his wife was leaving behind. “I noticed there were some clothes on the line. Has your mother been down?”
Ginny’s smile fell, “I haven’t seen her. She started some clothes, but she wasn’t around when we got back from town. She’s up in your room.”
Arthur sighed, “Well, thank you for all of your help.”
“Can we do anything to help Mum?”
“Just what you are doing, love.” Arthur replied kissing his daughter on the top of her head. “L-losing one of you was our biggest fear and I think it being one of the twins makes it even harder. She’s grieving for both of them and she just gets so lost. When she lost her brothers…that was awful. She took to her bed for months. I think it was only the fact that you kids needed her that helped her get through it.”
Ginny nodded and wiped away the tears that had filled her eyes. She missed her big brothers every day, George would come out occasionally and Percy was spending quite a bit of time with him. Harry made it a point to spend at least a bit of time with George every day and Ginny knew he appreciated it.
“What about you Dad?” she whispered.
He sighed as he sank down next to her and reached for her hand. “I miss your brother and believe me I’ve shed more than my fair share of tears, but for me getting back to work and helping reshape our world has helped immensely. My son died a hero and I want to honour that by ensuring what he died for is done properly. We’re getting rid of the horrible laws that have been passed over the past few years and breaking the pureblood monopoly on the Wizengamot.”
Harry had joined them at the table. Reaching out he took Ginny’s other hand and gently kissed the back of it before handing her his handkerchief. She smiled at him before wiping her eyes.
“I know when S-sirus died,” Harry began his voice still cracking with emotion two years later. “I did nothing for the first fortnight after I got back to the Dursleys. I just lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling.” Ginny reached out and squeeze his hand. “I decided that I was going to honour his sacrifice and that of my parents by taking down Voldemort. It seems kind of weird to think that I have actually done that.”
Arthur smiled at the teen fondly, he was so modest. “That you have my boy.”
Feet pounding down the steps caused the three to look up. Arthur greeted his sons, pleased to see George and come down as well. George drifted over to talk to Harry while Percy and Ginny started setting the table. He frowned a bit to see Ron ignoring both his sister and Harry.
Soon they were eating the delicious meal Harry had prepared. Arthur had planned to take a plate up to Molly, but to his surprise Harry beat him to it. The dinner was quieter than many dinners they’d had in the past, but Ginny and George were talking quietly with Harry adding a word now and then.
After dinner, Arthur leaned over to Percy. “Would you mind taking care of the dishes?”
“Of course, Father.”
George drifted back upstairs and Harry stood to help clear the table. Arthur stopped him, “Harry, you’ve done enough already. Why don’t you take Ginny out for a walk?”
He didn’t need to tell them twice. He watched with a fond smile as Harry and Ginny headed out to the garden hand-in-hand.
Turning back, he saw his youngest son still sitting at the table. “Ron, would you like to help me in my shed?”
He saw Ron rolling his eyes, but he did get up and follow his father. Arthur led the way into his shed and sat on one of the stools he’d put out there.
Ron leaned against the wall. Arthur looked critically at his son. He’d lost quite a bit of weight over the past year while he still managed to grow another inch. It still amazed Arthur how much his youngest son towered over him.
“What’s wrong, Ron?”
“What do you mean? Nothing’s wrong?”
Arthur bit back a smile as he watched the tips of Ron’s ears glow. Ron had never been good at hiding his feelings. “Your best mate makes the best dinner we’ve had in weeks and you don’t say a word to him. What’s wrong, did you have a fight?”
He watched for minute as Ron seemed to be fighting with whether to talk to him or not. Finally Ron burst out, “Those two…they don’t care about Malfoy’s trial. Harry’s even testifying for the prat. Ginny doesn’t care. How can they forget so quickly? Hermione was tortured and they don’t care.”
Arthur’s heart went out to his son. He was obviously still suffering from nightmares about their time at Malfoy Manor. “What did they say?”
Ron rolled his eyes, “Ginny got all upset and said that Hermione wasn’t the only one tortured and Hogwarts was horrible.”
“You don’t believe her?” Arthur was surprised. “I thought I saw you and Neville talking.”
“They used the Cruciatus as punishment and no one stepped in? Malfoy didn’t take advantage of his position? No, I don’t believe her.”
“Would you like to read Professor McGonagall’s testimony?” Arthur asked.
“What?” Ron looked at him in confusion.
“She was quite clear about the punishments that were used. Apparently, Filch was quite diligent in documenting the punishments that were used and the detentions given out. If anything, I think your sister has understated what happened last year.”
“B-but she was at Hogwarts,” Ron protested.
“Ron,” Arthur said with a touch of impatience in his voice, “she was at Hogwarts run by Death Eaters. What did you think, it was truly safe? Do you think I would have sent my daughter there if I had a choice? I worried about her every night. All of the letters were censored so we really didn’t know what was going on and we weren’t allowed to send her anything. I know they had more than one weekend when the Carrows didn’t allow them to eat anything but toast and water.”
Ron looked shocked. Arthur picked up his newest acquisition while Ron processed everything he’d said. He fiddled with the remote that Harry had given him, but still watched Ron out of the corner of his eye.
“Does Harry know?”
“I imagine he does,” Arthur said. “Not only have he and Ginny talked quite a bit, but he’s been helping get ready for the trials. He’s read a lot of the testimony and seen Filch’s records.”
“She’s really been put under the Cruciatus?”
“More times than I’d like to think about,” Arthur replied.
“So how come she doesn’t care about Hermione?” Ron demanded.
Arthur sighed. “Ron, Hermione went through an awful ordeal and it was horrible that you and Harry had to listen to it.”
“It was,” Ron replied immediately. “It was awful. She was screaming and there was nothing I could do for her. If Harry hadn’t broken the Taboo…why did they have to pick her? Why not him?”
“Ron!” Arthur said sternly. “I know you are not saying you wish your best friend had been tortured.”
“Better him than her! She didn’t do anything to deserve it. She was just trying to keep us alive.”
“What did Harry do to deserve it?”
Ron at least had the grace to look a bit ashamed of himself. “I know he didn’t deserve it either, but he was the one they were after.”
“You and Hermione are the two who insisted on joining him. That is the choice both of you made,” Arthur said gently. “You must have known it would be dangerous.”
“But I didn’t think she’d get hurt,” Ron protested. “I thought we would be able to protect her.”
“It is horrible, not being able to protect those you love is a horrible thing,” Arthur said. “After Bill’s wedding…they took your sister into another room and all I heard was her screaming.” He faltered for a moment before continuing, “It turned out they were threatening her with a knife, she was cut a bit, but not truly injured. She was scared more than anything else. For me it was awful, I could just hear my daughter screaming and I couldn’t do a damn thing to help her.”
He looked up at Ron, “What could you have done differently to help Hermione?”
“Well…we…I…I don’t know.”
“Exactly, Ron she was tortured by Death Eaters.” Arthur said gently. “I don’t believe she blames you, I think it is you blaming yourself. Don’t you think I wish my daughter wasn’t tortured or my son was still alive?”
“So what, I just ignore it?”
“No, son. You need to learn to deal with the feelings. You need to forgive yourself for not being able to help her. No one else blames you, you are the only one who does that.”
Ron sighed and Arthur looked away as Ron wiped his eyes. “Dad, they are forgetting.”
“Trust me, they haven’t forgotten. Just look at Harry, he is working so hard to make certain that none of the Death Eaters fade back into society like they did before.”
“So why is he helping Malfoy?” Ron sounded honestly confused this time, his anger spent.
“I don’t think he sees it as helping Malfoy,” Arthur explained gently. “He is trying to make sure the right person is punished for the right crime. Malfoy is a cowardly bully, but is he really as evil as his father? I don’t think so. I think he was caught up in his father’s expectations and didn’t know any way out. He didn’t kill Professor Dumbledore, he didn’t identify the three of you when he had the chance, and he didn’t abuse the other students at Hogwarts when he could have easily gotten away with it. I think he just doesn’t have the stomach for violence. He’s a punk who as long as he thinks he’d on the more powerful side is posturing and posing, otherwise he’s just a scared kid.”
“He could have done something.”
“What?” Arthur asked. “Do you think if Bellatrix thought he was on your side she would have spared him the same treatment?”
Ron looked shocked at that thought. “I guess not. He didn’t identify us, Harry is right about that.”
“Exactly,” Arthur said. “No one is saying he’s a good kid or anything like that. Harry just wants to make certain he is punished for what he did not what his father did or his aunt did.”
After giving Ron a moment to digest that thought, Arthur continued. “Ron, I know you feel horribly about what happened to Hermione, but you keep throwing it in everyone’s face.” He raised his hand when Ron looked like he was going to talk. “You have thrown it up to both Harry and Ginny several times. They were both tortured as well; Ginny here at Hogwarts and Harry the night of the final battle. Did you know he was hit with ten to twenty Cruciatus curses that night? Ron, your best friend walked out of the castle fully prepared to die for all of us — he willing took a Killing Curse and you’ve been telling him he can’t complain because Hermione was tortured.”
“I didn’t mean that,” Ron mumbled.
“You might not have meant it, but that’s what you’ve been saying.” Arthur said. “She suffered, but so did many other people. For you her suffering is more important, but you can’t dismiss everyone else’s suffering.”
Ron stared down at the scuffed floor of the shed. “So what do I do?”
“I think you owe Harry and Ginny an apology,” Arthur replied promptly. “Other than that I think you need to listen to everyone else. You’ve been blocking out everyone else’s story because you’ve been so concentrated on Hermione and your experiences. Listen and empathize. You had a totally different experience from many, but there were others on the run, there were others who listened to their loved ones tortured. Talk to your friends and actually listen to them this time.”
Ron nodded, “I’m sorry, Dad. I promise I will try harder.”
“Good.” Arthur embraced his son. “Let’s go see if there’s a bit more of that trifle.”
As they walked into the kitchen, they found Harry and Ginny laughing and sharing a serving of trifle. Arthur patted his son on the shoulder.
Ron stopped and looked at the couple in front of him. “Harry, Ginny, I’m really sorry about this morning.”
Harry looked up at him as if assessing his sincerity. “Are you ready to stop being a git? Stop giving Ginny such a hard time? She went through a lot and you keep acting like it’s nothing.”
Ron stared at his best friend in shock, was he really doing the very thing he’d accused Harry of doing? He looked between Harry and Ginny and belatedly realized that Harry felt for Ginny what he did for Hermione. He looked down and he could feel his ears heating up. “I am really sorry, Ginny. I…I guess I was so wrapped up in what happened to me and Hermione and…I didn’t realize that Hogwarts was so bad.”
“Didn’t want to,” Harry muttered.
Ron looked at his best mate in surprise. Harry hadn’t been that mad at him when he’d come back during the Horcrux hunt. It suddenly hit him, Harry was more upset about him hurting Ginny’s feelings.
“You’re right,” Ron admitted. “I didn’t want to. I was mad about what Hermione went through and didn’t want to admit anyone else got hurt. I really am sorry. Mate, you forgot to mention you were hit with so many Cruciatus curses that night.”
Ginny lay her hand on Harry’s arm. He smiled at her before turning back to Ron. “After the Killing Curse, it didn’t hurt as much. They tossed me around the clearing, but I didn’t really feel it.”
“Until you tried taking a shower,” Ginny said.
Harry laughed, “Yeah that was pretty bad. I had sticks and twigs stuck everywhere and all these cuts and bruises. The only one that really hurt was where the Killing Curse hit.”
Sitting down across from Harry and Ginny, Ron helped himself to some more trifle. Harry smiled at him,
“If you’re going to stop being a git, we’re good.”
Ginny nodded in agreement.
“I’m going to try.” Ron said. He took a few bites of trifle. “This is really good, mate.”
“Thanks,” Harry said.
“So did you hear they are starting the Quidditch season on time?” Ron asked.
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