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SIYE Time:22:14 on 18th November 2017


These Cuts I Have
By melindaleo

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Category: Post-DH/AB
Characters:All
Genres: Drama
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 475
Summary: The war has been won, yet the aftershocks continue. The scattered survivors are left to pick up the pieces and find ways to move on. Join the various members of the extended Weasley family as they struggle to rebuild and cope with the consequences. And of course there are still Death Eaters left to find.
Hitcount: Story Total: 86635; Chapter Total: 3586
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Thanks for all the wonderful reviews last chapter, and for the support regarding my son’s comments. I showed him a lot of them! Being a teenager, naturally he just rolled his eyes.
There have been several comments about Harry needing professional help. From what I understand from various Brit Pickers, getting counseling is not nearly as common in Britain as it is here. It’s quite rare, actually. That being the case, I think the wizarding world will follow suit, so there will be no "mind healers” during the course of this story.




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Chapter Eleven
Tears and Fears



Ron took a deep breath and tried to steady his nerves as he stared up at the well-manicured house with the perfectly tended garden. The house was tidy and posh. Just looking at it made him nervous. He quickly tucked in his shirt, wishing he’d paid more attention when he got dressed that morning.

Hermione was a nervous ball of energy. She was up and dressing by six o’clock. He still didn’t know what to think of the bizarre conversation they’d had last night.

Why on earth would she want to know all that stuff about Lavender? Why on earth had he answered her? He should’ve grabbed the bottle of wine and locked himself in the loo.

He wished he were locked in the loo right now.

He was exceedingly grateful that she was so preoccupied with her parents that she hadn’t brought up the conversation that morning. However, the fact she hadn’t done so left him on tenterhooks waiting for her to resume it. As if he wasn’t nervous enough to see her parents as it was.

He hadn’t known she harbored any resentment toward Lavender. She’d tried to save his old girlfriend when Lavender had been attacked by Fenrir Greyback the night of the battle. Lavender had eventually died from her wounds, and Ron hadn’t really given that a whole lot of contemplation.

His first girlfriend was dead. That was a weird thought. Ron had been so proud of Hermione for trying to save her. If the situation had been reversed, he wasn’t so certain he’d have done the same for Viktor Krum. That knowledge didn’t sit well. He wanted to be a better person than that. Hermione deserved someone better than that.

If Viktor was lying there dying, he wanted to believe he’d help. Harry would help without a doubt, and Hermione had proven she would, as well. Harry had willingly sacrificed his own life for everyone, friends and strangers alike. He even went back in the Room of Requirement for Malfoy.

Ron knew he’d never live up to Harry-standards; who would? But he wanted to make Hermione proud. He’d done a lot of soul-searching and growing-up during the time he’d been trying to get back to his friends. He never wanted to make such a foolish mistake again. He’d vowed to spend the rest of his life making it up to Hermione and Harry.

“Are you ready?” Hermione asked, dragging Ron from his musings.

He had to smile at her. She was like a little kid, she was so excited. “As ready as I’m ever going to be. Are you calm enough to undo the Spell? You have to be calm for it to work. You told me that on the bus.”

Hermione took a deep breath, shaking out her hands. “I can do it. I’m ready.”

“Have your wand handy in case they don’t want to let us inside,” Ron warned. They’d come up with an elaborate plan of telling the Grangers they’d moved into an empty house on the corner and were out introducing themselves to the neighbors. Hermione had even given them imaginary jobs. He was supposed to be a baker since she was certain her mother would want to give him some of her sugar-free recipes.

He knew there would be some unforeseen problem. There always was, but Hermione was too excited for him to let her down. He’d pretend to be a baker.

They walked up the neatly trimmed pathway and knocked on the door. Ron felt a bead of sweat trickle down his back. Mr. Granger opened the door widely and before either of them could even open their mouths to speak, he ushered them inside.

“Are you both here about the job?” he asked, looking at each of them quizzically.

He led them into the parlor where, stunned and confused, they both took a seat.

“Job?” Hermione asked. She then must’ve decided to go with it for she said. “Yes, we’re both here about the job.”

Ron’s head was spinning, they’d got inside much more quickly than he’d anticipated, but the plan appeared shot to hell. What happened to being a baker? His palms were sweating, and Hermione looked as if she were about to faint. He had to be strong for her. He clenched his fists and tamped down on his rising panic.

“You look rather young. Have you got your certification yet, or are you here about the clerical position?” Mr. Granger asked, his eyes darting between them.

Hermione slowly pulled out her wand and although her hand was shaking, she aimed it directly at her father.

“What are you doing?” he asked, puzzled rather than alarmed.

She took a deep breath, the trembling of her hand increasing steadily. “Restituere Caligante Memoria,” she said breathlessly.

Her father staggered a moment, grasping the wall to remain steady. He glanced around the room in confusion, his eyes clearing as he looked at his daughter.

“Hermione?” he asked tentatively.

“Oh, Daddy,” she said, jumping up and launching herself at her father. His arms hung by his sides for a moment before eventually wrapping around her back.

“What’s happening?” he asked when they pulled apart. “I don’t understand.”

Hermione led the confused man to a chair, and he sank into it gratefully. He looked at Ron with the same bewildered expression.

“Hello, Mr. Granger,” Ron mumbled.

“Hermione, I think you’d best explain,” her father said faintly.

“I will, Dad. I’ll explain everything to you both, but first, where’s Mum?” Hermione asked.

“She’s upstairs. She still believes her name is Monica Wilkins. We were living someone else’s lives,” he muttered, clearly overwhelmed. “I have two entire people living in my head.”

“Why don’t I put on some tea?” Ron said. He felt useless and needed to expend some energy. His mum always made tea when there was any kind of upset, and he now wondered if she, too, used it as an excuse to gather her thoughts.

“That’s a good idea. Where’s the kitchen, Dad?” Hermione asked.

“Through there,” he pointed vaguely to a door on the right.

The man was clearly dazed, and Ron couldn’t blame him one bit.

“I’ll get it,” Ron said.

He walked into a brightly lit kitchen with a window overlooking the back garden. He could see a variety of fruit trees growing outside. The kettle was on the cooker, and he filled it with water from the tap. He drew his wand to light the stove, but stopped when he saw all the Muggle knobs. He remembered Harry saying something about turning on the stove with knobs back at The Burrow.

Ron stared at it, perplexed, but reached out and turned a knob on the far left. He was immensely pleased when it ignited. Placing the kettle on the flame, he dug some teacups out of the cabinet.

When he returned to the sitting room after preparing the tea, he found Mrs. Granger sitting next to her husband, wearing the same bewildered expression that still showed on the older man’s face.

“Hello, Ron,” she said absently.

“Hi, Mrs. Granger. It’s nice to see you again,” Ron replied awkwardly. He then wanted to yank the words right back into his mouth. How stupid could he sound?

Hermione poured the tea and gave a cup to each of her parents.

“I think we’re ready for an explanation now, Hermione,” her father said firmly.

“Okay, first of all, I want you to know that I didn’t do any of this lightly. As you know, the Magical world was on the brink of war—”

“Was?” Mrs. Granger interrupted. “So somehow, in the year we’ve been here, it’s over?”

“Yes. After Professor Dumbledore died, the Dark Wizard I told you about took over everything. He took over Hogwarts, he took over the Ministry, he had to be stopped,” Hermione said.

“And how does this relate to our being in Australia living as someone else?” Mr. Granger asked, and for the first time, there was a trace of anger in his voice.

Hermione was wringing her hands in her lap. “Because… because… I knew they might come after you while they were looking for me. I had to find a way to protect you, so I altered your memories, and sent you here to keep you safe,” she said in a rush.

Both her parents remained silent, staring at her. Mrs. Granger’s mouth was hanging slightly open while Mr. Granger’s forehead was furrowed in consternation.

“And it worked. They came to the house looking, but they never found you,” Hermione said, her voice so small it made Ron’s heart ache. “It worked. My plan kept you safe.”

Ron knew Hermione, and he knew how she hated to be proven wrong. He suspected she desperately wanted her parents’ approval for what she’d done. At the same time, he could understand the Grangers’ confusion. He had enough trouble keeping track of his own thoughts, never mind if an entire other person’s thoughts were inside his head, too. Ron suspected he might go mad.

“And why were they looking for you?” Mrs. Granger asked slowly. “Weren’t you at school?”

“No. I didn’t go back to school. Ron and I went with Harry. It was down to Harry to defeat Voldemort, but he needed to find several objects first in order to make Voldemort mortal so he could be destroyed.”

“Mortal,” her mother repeated.

“You left school? You didn’t complete your education?” her father asked, stunned.

“I couldn’t go back to school. I told you before: Voldemort disapproved of Muggle-borns like me. We weren’t allowed back to Hogwarts, and instead he was having us thrown in prison. A lot of Muggle-borns died in prison for no reason.”

“But he’s gone now?” her mother asked, still reeling.

“Yes. We found everything we needed to find, and Harry destroyed him. It’s over, so Ron and I came here to find you. It took me a little while, but I’m here,” Hermione said, and there was a pleading tone to her voice.

“So Harry killed him?” Mr. Granger asked incredulously.

“No! Not really. Voldemort tried to kill Harry, but the curse rebounded and killed him instead,” Hermione said.

“I don’t understand why this whole war came down to school children. Why was Harry involved?” Mr. Granger asked.

“Because Voldemort was after Harry from the moment he came back. It had to be Harry. Professor Dumbledore knew it, that’s why he told Harry about these objects he had to find before Voldemort could be defeated,” Hermione said, sniffling.

“And did Professor Dumbledore also tell you to steal your parents’ memories?” her mother asked sharply. “I’ve started an entirely different life here, and I didn’t even remember I had a daughter.” Mrs. Granger started to cry.

“I’m sorry, Mum. I didn’t know what else to do,” Hermione cried.

“Did you erase your parents’ memories as well, Ron?” Mr. Granger asked.

“Er… no. My parents are wizards, and my family is too big to hide. They were also involved in fighting the war,” Ron said, feeling as if he wasn’t helping at all.

“Ron’s parents could defend themselves. They could do magic, too. You would’ve been completely at their mercy, and they had no mercy,” Hermione pleaded.

“I can understand your desire to protect us,” Mr. Granger said. “What I can’t understand is why you were involved at all. You’re eighteen years old, Hermione. I know you’re an extremely clever girl, but I’m having trouble accepting an entire war rested on your shoulders.”

“It wasn’t my shoulders, it was Harry’s. Ron and I had to help him,” Hermione said.

“She was a huge help, Mr. Granger. We couldn’t have done it without her. She worked out how to cast protection spells that kept us safe no matter where we were hiding all year. Harry and I both would’ve been long dead without her,” Ron said, not enjoying the way Mr. Granger was scowling at him.

“If you were in that much danger, why didn’t you come here with us?” Mrs. Granger asked.

“Because I’m a witch, and I could do something to stop it,” Hermione said quietly. “You always taught me to stand up for injustices.”

“I didn’t teach you to carelessly put your life in danger, or to use magic for a quick fix to your problems,” Mr. Granger said.

“It wasn’t a quick fix. It was complicated magic, and it helped keep you alive. I’m not sorry I did it,” Hermione said. “I love you.”

The Grangers were silent a moment. Finally, Mrs. Granger said, “We love you, too, Hermione. This is just a lot to take in all at once. We’ve been here for nearly a year. We made a new life thinking we were someone else.”

“What about our practice back home?” Mr. Granger asked sitting bolt upright. “What did you tell the staff and all our patients?”

“I told them you had a family emergency and had to leave indefinitely,” Hermione said, hanging her head. She had told Ron she thought this would be a sore spot. Her parents had always been very career-oriented people, and they’d spent their lifetime building their practice. There was nothing she could do about it, however, so she’d made the best excuse she could.

“Indefinitely,” her father repeated, sagging back in his chair.

“I had no idea how long it would take,” Hermione said. “I thought you’d open a practice here, but when I started looking for you, I couldn’t find one. Eventually I tracked down Mum.”

Mrs. Granger held her head in her hands.

“How were we supposed to do that?” Mr. Granger demanded, thunderstruck. “We couldn’t simply start a practice cold without a client base. We had to start over, working for other people. We’ve just begun looking at office space to start a practice of our own. That’s who I thought you were when you rang. We’ve been interviewing potential employees.”

“What about your Aunt Sara’s chemotherapy?” Mrs. Granger suddenly shrieked. “What happened? Is she all right?”

Hermione just stared at her blankly. “Chemotherapy,” she said in a very small voice. Ron had no idea what chemotherapy was, but he didn’t think it sounded good.

“Oh, I hadn’t told you before you befuddled me. Haven’t you checked on her since it all ended?” her mother demanded.

“It’s only been over for a few weeks. There were a lot of funerals to attend, including Ron’s brother, Fred. Then I started looking for you immediately,” Hermione said, tears shining in her eyes.

Ron was getting annoyed with them. They were upsetting Hermione, and she had only tried to keep them alive. This wasn’t fair.

Both Grangers were staring at Ron in dismay.

“I’m sorry, Ron. He was one of your twin brothers, wasn’t he? How are your parents holding up?” Mrs. Granger asked.

Ron had had enough.

“They’re as well as can be expected, considering all we’ve just gone through. I think you’d be better off wondering how your own daughter is holding up. She did everything within her power to keep you safe, basically turning herself into an orphan to ensure you were okay, and it tore her up inside. I don’t think you’re being fair.”

“Ron,” Hermione said, putting a hand on his arm. Her eyes were pleading so he swallowed his ire. He knew he’d hopelessly blown it now.

“We need some time to sort out our own heads now that we remember both lives,” Mr. Granger said. “I need to call our practice and see if there is anything left, and your mother needs to call your aunt.”

“We’re staying at the Hotel Grand Chancellor on Hindley Street. I’m in room 311,” Hermione said. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Mr. Granger nodded, but Mrs. Granger leaned over and hugged her daughter goodbye. Ron led his sniffling girlfriend from the house.

It had been an utter disaster.

*****

Harry took a deep breath as he stared at the familiar door of Twelve Grimmauld Place. He had finally been released from St. Mungo’s after Healer Larkin had given him a new bruise balm that he was supposed to use each evening. She’d also given him a bottle of Dreamless Sleep Potion with the instructions to use it sparingly because it could become addictive. He also wasn’t supposed to take anything else while he was using it.

Harry was embarrassed, but he was grateful to have the potion. After getting caught up on his rest while in hospital, he didn’t want to go back to the dazed feeling of sleep deprivation.

Ginny had gone to the Ministry for her revision session, so Mr. Weasley had come to the hospital to see him home. Harry felt awkward about it. Not that he didn’t appreciate the man’s concern, but he didn’t see what the big deal was in Apparating back to The Burrow on his own.

Mrs. Weasley had sent along a pair of Ron’s old jeans and a T-shirt, so Harry at least had something clean to wear rather than his torn and bloody clothes. The outfit was still a bit big, but fit far better than anything else he’d ever owned.

While he’d been lying in his bed that morning, he’d decided he needed to move out of The Burrow. After the attack, he was concerned for the safety of the entire Weasley family. He couldn’t be responsible for any more deaths in this family that had been so good to him. He couldn’t handle it.

There was also the niggling thought in the back of his mind that after living on his own for a year, he found the hovering of the Weasley parents rather disconcerting. He’d never had any kind of parental figure, and felt it was too late for him to figure out what to do with one now.

He’d briefly considered leasing a flat once he had access to his funds, but why lease a flat when he already owned an entire house right here in London? He hadn’t been back since the war had ended, so he supposed he should take a look and see if it was habitable.

When he told Mr. Weasley he wanted to stop at Grimmauld Place, the Weasley patriarch immediately sent a Patronus to Bill to have the Curse-Breaker meet them there.

The front door had some scorch marks, but it was still functioning. Harry opened it wide and found Bill standing in the entry-way.

“Morning, Dad. Morning, Harry,” he said cheerfully.

“Good morning, Bill. Have you taken a look?” Mr. Weasley asked.
Bill shook his head. “We have no idea if the Death Eaters left any traps behind, so no one should be here alone until it’s inspected.” He glared particularly hard at Harry as he said it.

“I’m going to do a sweep now to see if there is anything blatant, but it’s more likely than not that, since they knew you’d been hiding here, they would have left some traps in case you returned. I’m going to have Kingsley send a Ministry squad to come in and do a thorough decontamination. You’ll have to bring down some of the wards, but you’ll want to reset them anyway since they’ve already been breached.”

Harry nodded. He’d been thinking more along the lines of what the Death Eaters had destroyed, not that they’d left traps behind.

“I can help you when it’s time to reset the wards, if you’d like,” Bill offered.

“Thanks. I’d appreciate that,” Harry said.

He took a look around without touching anything while Bill went upstairs. The house was a mess. The furniture had been completely destroyed, but Harry didn’t think that was any big loss. The walls were covered with grime and scorch marks. The fireplace in the kitchen had been smashed so as to block the Floo. It looked as if the Death Eaters had gone on a rampage. Rubble and debris littered the floor along with various bits of trash. He suspected some of the marks on the floor were blood-stains.

Harry sighed wearily. It would take a lot of work before he was able to move in here. He’d have to start on a place to sleep and the kitchen before he could even consider it. He’d have to stay at The Burrow for a little while longer. At least he could still be close to Ginny.

His thoughts drifted to the previous evening. He should’ve told her about the last Horcrux. He’d promised no more hiding things from her. He was going to have to gather up his courage and just do it. He was a Gryffindor, after all, but he feared her reaction. What if, when he eventually told her the truth, she wouldn’t only be disgusted by the fact he’d been a Horcrux, but she was also angry with him for holding back?

He wanted to do something to make her happy before that happened.

“Harry!” Bill shouted from somewhere upstairs.

“I’m here,” he called, sticking his head out the kitchen doorway.

“Don’t touch anything, there are definitely spells in here,” Bill said grimly.

“What did you find?” Harry asked.


As he began to climb the stairs out of the kitchen, he absentmindedly grasped the banister. The wood splintered and began to wrap around his hand, holding it in place. Harry shouted out in surprise, but he couldn’t free his hand, and the grip was growing steadily tighter.

“What is it?” Mr. Weasley asked, hurrying towards Harry. When he saw Harry’s predicament, he drew his wand.

“Dad, no!” Bill shouted, grabbing his father’s arm and pulling it away from Harry just as Mr. Weasley fired off a spell. It hit the ceiling and caused a chunk of it to fall on top of Harry, leaving bits of dust and plaster in his hair.

“Don’t use any magic. It might make it worse,” Bill said, sprinting down the stairs to examine Harry’s hand.

Harry’s hand was growing increasingly painful, and numbness had spread down into his fingers. He could see a thin line of blood beginning to form against the wood covering his hand.

“Can you get it off?” he gasped.

“I’ll get it off, just hang on,” Bill said, running his wand around the area, apparently doing some kind of diagnostics.

“When?” Harry asked as a drip of blood ran down the side of his hand and dropped to the floor.

“Hang on, Harry,” Mr. Weasley said reassuringly, though his eyes looked worried so Harry was far from calmed.

He took a deep breath and shut his eyes, biting down hard on his bottom lip. Even if his hand was broken, it was reparable. He needed to trust Bill to reverse whatever curse had been used. This is what Bill did for a living. Harry clenched his eyes and tried to call up all the Occlumency skills he’d worked on over the past year in order to calm down.

He wasn’t aware of any passage of time at all, but when he opened his eyes to the calls of Bill and Mr. Weasley, he found his hand was free. He stared in confusion at the two men.

“Are you all right?” Bill asked. “You zoned out on us.”

Harry glanced at his heavily bruised hand. Although painful, he could flex his fingers so he didn’t think anything was broken.

“How did you free it?” he asked.

“I just had to work out the right counter-curse,” Bill said, confused. “Don’t you remember?”

“What were you doing, Harry?” Mr. Weasley asked, concerned but also curious.

“I… I tried to use Occlumency so as not to panic,” he admitted ruefully.

Bill nodded, obviously impressed. “It worked brilliantly. Once you calmed down, it was much easier to read what I had to do.”

“I think it would be better if we left it here today. You can come back after the Ministry has a chance to decontaminate,” Mr. Weasley said.

Harry agreed, disappointed.

“Oh, before I forget,” Bill said, reaching into his pocket. He removed a small bit of cloth and used his wand to resize a money pouch. “Here you go, Harry. You’ll find your accounts at Gringotts have been reopened. I took the liberty of withdrawing some funds for you.”

“Thanks,” Harry said, feeling more cheerful. At least that was one less thing to worry about.

*****

Ginny lay on the couch in the sitting room of The Burrow, exhausted. She’d been at the Ministry all morning revising for her upcoming sixth-year exams, and her brain felt spent. As she began to drift off, she contemplated the conversation she’d had with Harry the previous evening.

He was leaving something out. She just knew it.

Something was wrong with the picture he’d painted. Yes, it was very like Harry to be guilt-ridden by Tom’s demands and then to turn himself over. Yes, it was like him to sacrifice himself if he thought he could protect someone else. But it wasn’t like him to leave something so important unfinished, or to trust that others would do it in his stead. Telling Neville to kill the snake, knowing that Tom couldn’t be killed before the snake was dead, wasn’t like him. Something didn’t add up.

Harry had been so upset by whatever he’d seen in his flashback that she didn’t have the heart to question him further. But it agitated her that he was hiding something.
He’d promised her that they’d be open with one another.

She didn’t think he was purposely hiding anything, however. At least she hoped not. She suspected there was something he was having a hard time telling her, but she had no idea what that might be. She wished Hermione were here to give her some guidance.

Those flashbacks Harry was experiencing were beginning to trouble her. She knew he’d never ask for help, but wished she could find a way to help him anyway. The fact he refused to admit that there was anything wrong was beginning to frustrate her.

As her mind buzzed with all these thoughts, her eyes began to drift closed. She was in that stage between sleep and wakefulness when she heard the kitchen door open. Shaking her head and getting up, she peered into the kitchen to see Harry quietly closing the door.

An uneasiness tugged at her as she observed how the bright summer light streaming in from the kitchen windows illuminated his pale face. She knew concern for her entire family was weighing heavily on his shoulders — even though he undoubtedly placed that burden there himself. Glancing down at his long, slender fingers, she noticed that they were clutching a box of Sugar Quills — grape-flavored Sugar Quills.

Ginny’s favorite.

They usually came in a box of assorted flavors, and she always chose the grape ones first and then pouted when they were gone. She didn’t know where he went, or what favor he’d called in to get a box of exclusively grape ones, but she wanted to leap across the room and pounce on him for doing it.

She wondered how he’d react if she did just that.

Merlin, he was beautiful.

She’d always been attracted to him. From the first time she saw him when he was eleven-years old and just a timid, scruffy-looking ragamuffin, he’d fascinated her. He had a vital spark, a raw magnetism that she’d been too young to recognize at the time. Still, even then, she could never draw her eyes away. She always wanted to be near him. Those bright green eyes that appeared to mirror his soul melted her heart. Though he constantly struggled to keep his emotions carefully guarded, they always radiated from the depths of those emerald orbs.

Sometimes, it was easy to forget how much he’d been through.

“Harry,” she said.

He turned to face her, his face brightening so much when he saw her that it made her feel warm inside. “Hey, Ginny. They let me out.”

“I can see that. What do you have there?” she asked, nodding towards the box.

Harry looked down at the hand clasping the box of Sugar Quills. “Oh… er… I got you a present, but you obviously caught me before I could wrap it.”

“Can I have one now?” she asked, bouncing on her toes.

Harry grinned. “You can, but it’ll cost you.”

Ginny walked toward him sashaying her hips. “Oh, and what will it cost me, Mr. Potter?”

“I’ll think of something,” he said, leaning over to kiss her. She began to lean in but quickly ducked and pulled the box from his hands.

“Hey, I call foul,” Harry said, laughing.

“How did you ever manage to get all grape ones?” Ginny asked, admiring the box before she selected one. She offered the box to Harry, who took one as well.

His face turned very bright red, but he said, “Er… well… Bill got my accounts at Gringotts straightened out, and I know it’s been hard around here. I just wanted to do something for you. You’ve been really good to me.”

He looked at the floor, obviously embarrassed.

“Thank you, Harry. It’s very thoughtful of you, and I do love the grape ones,” she said, feeling exceedingly fond of him at the moment.

“I know. I went to Honeydukes, but they didn’t sell single-flavor boxes. The shopkeeper was really kind and wanted to help me out,” Harry said, turning even redder, if that were possible.

Ginny knew he didn’t like to use his fame, was rather embarrassed by it actually, so the fact he would accept special treatment for her made the gift all the more special. In fact, she couldn’t think of a time during the entire war that he’d used his fame to his own advantage. Leave it to him to use it on sweets. For her.

“I’ll have to thank you properly later,” she said, beaming.

Harry looked up then, his eyes wide. He was definitely intrigued.

“When did you see Bill? I thought Dad was picking you up from St. Mungo’s,” Ginny asked.

“Yeah, he did. We made a stop at Grimmauld Place, and your dad asked Bill to join us and check if there had been any curses left behind,” Harry said, taking a lick of his Sugar Quill.

Ginny noticed the severe bruising on his hand. She reached out and grabbed it quickly, causing him to wince.

“What happened? Harry, you’ve been in hospital. How did you manage to hurt yourself already?” she asked incredulously.

“Oh, yeah. Your dad said your mum could fix it properly. Turns out, the Death Eaters did leave some tricks behind at Grimmauld Place,” Harry said, flexing his injured hand.

“Why were you at Grimmauld Place?” Ginny asked.

“Well, I wanted to see the damage. It seems silly to rent a flat when I already own a house in London,” he said.

“You’re moving?” Ginny asked, stunned. Her heart began thumping wildly. She didn’t want him living on his own. How long had he been planning this? Was this something else he’d been keeping from her? Her dismay began to grow once again.

“Well… eventually. It’s going to take some time to get Grimmauld Place livable again. A team from the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes is going to have to do a thorough sweep to get rid of any Dark Magic the Death Eaters left behind.”

“But… why? Why don’t you want to stay here?” Ginny said, hating the pleading tone in her voice but unable to stop it.

“It’s not that I don’t want to be here, Ginny. I love it here, but I can’t stay forever. You’ll be going back to school in September, and I’ll start work at the Ministry. I’ve never had a home of my own, and I need to start somewhere,” he said.

Ginny knew that he never considered the Dursleys’ his home, and why should he? But The Burrow was his, if he’d only make it so. George was already leaving, and Hermione would be moving back with her parents. Ginny simply wanted to hold them all together for as long as she could. She knew it was probably unreasonable, but the thought of everyone going their separate ways was extremely distressing.

“This is because of the attack, isn’t it?” she said accusingly.

Harry stared out the window, toward the Quidditch pitch where only days before Death Eaters had attempted to abduct him. “It would be safer for you all if I wasn’t here,” he admitted quietly.

“But it won’t be safer for you,” Ginny snapped. “For Merlin’s sake, Harry. Do you think any of us can handle losing you — again? Haven’t you learned yet that we’re safer together when we can all watch out for one another?”

“I can’t let any of you get hurt trying to protect me, Ginny. I can’t,” he said, his voice hoarse.

“And you think we’ll stop trying to protect you just because you’re not living here?” she demanded. “If we’re all together, at least someone has your back.”

“People die when they try to protect me. You heard Voldemort say it, and I can’t take it anymore,” he insisted.

“Oh, so you’re listening to Tom now? Listening to him rather than us?” Tears stung the corners of Ginny’s eyes. She knew he was hurting, knew she was hurting him now, but she couldn’t let him go on his own again while they were hunting him. She couldn’t.

“Ginny,” he said, reaching for her, but she skirted away.

“I know you feel responsible. I understand that, but you need to understand that you’re not alone. You’re not okay, Harry, no matter how much you want to pretend that you are. Those flashbacks you keep having are getting worse, and I know about the Silencing Charm you put around your bed. What if one of those flashbacks happens when a Death Eater is standing in front of you?”

Harry scowled and looked away.

“You know it’s true,” Ginny said, sensing a weakening. “I’m afraid of your being alone.”

“Look,” he said, “it can’t happen right away, anyway. There’s a lot to clean and rebuild. When the time comes… I’ll… I’ll ask Ron if he wants to move in with me. Does that help?”

“I’d rather you both stayed here, but if you’re determined, then, yes. At least you won’t be alone,” Ginny said, drawing a shuddering breath. “Everyone’s leaving.”

“What do you mean, ‘everyone’?” he asked, wrapping his arms around her. She let him this time, leaning into him.

“George. Hermione. Now you and Ron. Fred,” she said, before the tears really did come. They started rolling down her cheeks, and she was powerless to stop them.

Harry just held her and let her cry.

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