|SIYE Time:2:45 on 22nd July 2017|
These Cuts I Have
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Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use
Story is Complete
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: 80748; Chapter Total: 3358
Awards: View Trophy Room
Ron and Hermione had spent several days going back and forth between the hotel and Hermione’s parents’ house. There was still some tension, but Hermione felt a lot better about things with each passing day. Her parents weren’t ready to move back home yet, however. They had a lot of loose ends here. Hermione didn’t want to rush them, but she was eager to get back and check on Harry. She had an uncomfortable, nagging feeling that he needed them.
Her and Ron’s funds also wouldn’t last forever. She supposed they could ask to stay with her parents, but Hermione felt that showing some independence would prove she was right about the decision she had made.
Her parents said they understood why she had done it, but they wished she’d informed them beforehand so they could have taken care of a few things on their own. Hermione chose not to debate them, knowing they never would have agreed to her plan. They’d have insisted they all go away together. They still felt as if it was their job to protect her, not the other way around, so her decision didn’t sit right.
The worst complication was her Aunt Sara. Her mum had called her sister and learned from one of Hermione’s cousins that Aunt Sara had passed away three months earlier. The family had been unable to find any of the Grangers, and the phone call was extremely chilly. Her mother was devastated.
Hermione had never been particularly close with her three cousins. The two sisters were slightly older than her and had always been more into clothes and boys than Hermione. The boy, David, was her age and also a lover of books. After she’d started Hogwarts, she never saw much of them, but her mum had remained close. She hoped her mum would at least be able to reconnect with her nephew and nieces after they’d returned.
Her dad had finally tracked down the woman who had managed their office staff, and she filled him in about how their practice had been disbanded. Her dad hadn’t really told Hermione all that much, but she knew he was upset. She felt that the sooner they went back to Cornwall and started to rebuild the practice, the sooner her father’s spirits would perk up.
Hermione was really happy that Ron had come with her. She didn’t think she could have done this alone. He’d surprised Hermione by how he’d compassionately weathered her many mood swings. He’d staunchly defended her to her parents and made the decisions when she simply couldn’t.
It was something a younger Ron never could’ve done, but Hermione was pleased with his newfound maturity.
And he hadn’t shown the first inclination of leaving.
That fact alone and bolstered Hermione’s spirits. She knew Ron was growing restless, but he hadn’t complained. She was beginning to wish he would so she could release some of her building frustration over the delay.
Hermione wanted to go home.
She started when the phone rang, and she hurried to answer it. She and Ron had agreed that he wouldn’t answer the phone since only her parents would be calling. Hermione didn’t feel she was lying to her parents exactly, she just hadn’t mentioned they were sharing one room. After all, both she and Ron were of age, and they weren’t doing anything wrong. Still, why force the issue?
For his part, Ron hadn’t attempted to go any further than snogging again. He’d been a perfect gentleman. Hermione wasn’t certain if she was happy about that or not.
“Hello?” Hermione answered.
Ron poked his wet head out of the bathroom door, his eyes questioning.
“Yes, all right. We’ll be there shortly, Mum,” Hermione said. Then, turning to Ron she said, “That was Mum. They want us to come over. She said they have something to tell me. Oh, Ron, I think they’re finally ready to go home.”
Ron’s grin split his whole face. “Wicked.”
“I know,” Hermione said, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “We’ll take an aeroplane back to Sydney, no need to take the bus again.”
“Thank, Merlin,” Ron said. “My legs still haven’t un-cramped from the trip over here. “We could be home in time for supper.”
“Well, no… but we’ll be on our way. Travelling by aeroplane is a lot quicker than bus, but it’s got nothing on Apparition. We’re still in for a lot of travelling.”
Ron visibly deflated. “Oh. Right. Still, I’ll be glad to get back. George and the others were going into Diagon Alley to clean up the shop last Saturday. I wonder if George has re-opened yet.”
“And I hope Harry is doing all right. I need to do some more reading on Spell Shock to learn how we can help,” Hermione said, deciding it was best not to let on her nagging concern about Harry. Ron had been overprotective — even by his standards — and there was nothing he could do from here.
When they arrived at her parents’ house, they found them in their sitting room with the tea service already out. Hermione felt the first thrill of apprehension. This scene brought her vividly back to her childhood whenever her parents had wanted to discuss some minor transgression on Hermione’s part. She glanced at Ron, who was smiling pleasantly at her parents, blissfully unaware of any upcoming row.
“Mum, Dad,” she said cautiously, “is everything all right?”
“Of course, dear. Why don’t you come sit and have some tea?” her mother said pleasantly.
She and Ron sat on the couch, facing her parents, the coffee table holding the tea service in between them. Hermione took her time preparing a cup, trying to calm her mind. She’d assumed her parents were going to say they were ready to go home, now she feared there would be a stipulation.
“Thanks, Mrs. Granger,” Ron said, snacking on some biscuits. “These are good.”
Her mother smiled weakly.
“So, are you ready to go home?” Ron asked, charging right to it and unsuspecting of a potential problem.
“That’s what we wanted to talk to you about, Hermione,” her father said. “Your mother and I have talked about this, weighing all our options, since you returned and un-magicked us.”
“I reversed the spell, yes,” Hermione said, her apprehension increasing. “What do you mean by ‘weighing your options?’” she asked.
“Hermione, I understand you did what you thought was best, but as your father and the one responsible for your safety, I feel I had the right to be consulted. I should have had a say in what happened to our family. We should have discussed this as a family, much in the same way we did when we learned you were a witch. We didn’t just decide where you would attend school. We discussed it together,” her father said.
Hermione dropped her head. In her heart, she knew he wouldn’t have agreed, and with their lives hanging in the balance, she couldn’t take that risk. They didn’t understand how powerful Voldemort had been. They simply didn’t understand her world anymore.
“So what are you saying?” she asked sadly. “What are you going to do?”
Her dad took a deep breath, his warm brown eyes, eyes so like her own, stared at her intently. “Our practice back in Cornwall has been completely disbanded. Not only disbanded, but there are some bad feelings lingering over the way we left.”
Hermione opened her mouth to interrupt, but her father held up his hand to stop her.
“Let me finish. The practice is gone, so when we get home, we’d have to start over. This would be difficult to do since our reputation has been stained. Here, in Adelaide, we’re at the point where we can open a practice, and each have a goodly list of clients that will follow us.”
“So… what are you saying… ” Hermione asked, already knowing yet unable to comprehend it.
“We’re saying that we’ve decided to remain in Australia,” her mother said quietly. “Your aunt is gone now, too, so there are no ties left behind.”
“No ties? What about me?” Hermione cried.
“Well, we have an extra bedroom upstairs. We thought you might consider remaining here with us,” her father said. “Your magic would allow you to return to England any time you pleased.”
“What? You want Hermione to stay here? To live?” Ron exploded, jumping to his feet. “What about school? She wants to go back to Hogwarts in September.”
“She could still do that,” her mother replied calmly. “She’s spent the school year away since she was twelve.”
“Eleven,” Ron corrected automatically. Hermione thought he looked rather stunned.
“I was almost twelve when I started Hogwarts,” she said, feeling rather stunned herself. “My birthday is in September, remember?”
“Oh, yeah,” Ron said, sitting back down heavily. He looked at her worriedly, and Hermione was touched to see how concerned he was over the idea of her staying.
“What do you think, Hermione?” her father asked. “I’ve spoken with a real estate agent who is going to look at the house. I thought we could have our personal belongings sent to us here. We could all catch up and get to know each other again. A whole year can change a person. I see it in you in so many ways.”
Hermione wiped at her running nose. Her throat ached, and the room had gone blurry. “I can’t. I want to work at the Ministry after I leave Hogwarts. I want to help with the reconstruction of our government,” she said quietly.
Ron was the only one who looked relieved.
Her mother looked down. “I was afraid you’d say that. But you’ll come for holidays and before you start work, won’t you? With your ability to travel, it’s not like the distance is as great as it would be otherwise.”
“Of course I will,” Hermione said, sniffling.
Her mother looked between Ron and Hermione knowingly.
“I can see you’ve begun to plant some roots of your own, but remember how young you both are. There will always be a room for you here if your life changes, or if you decide you need a change,” she said delicately.
“I suppose there is no sense interrogating you since you’ve been living with my daughter for the past year,” Mr. Granger said, looking appraisingly at Ron.
Ron swallowed visibly. “It wasn’t like that, sir.”
“Dad,” Hermione interrupted firmly. She didn’t want Ron to tell her parents they’d only been dating since the battle. It would only lead her mother to put more pressure on her daughter to stay with them. “Ron and I are of age in both the Wizarding and Muggle worlds.”
“I still don’t have to like it,” her father grumbled.
“But we can all take some time to really get to know each other,” her mother said soothingly. “You don’t have to leave right away. We can show you around the town, spend some time together. There’s no hurry for you to go back.”
“Actually, there is, Mum,” Hermione said, fighting her tears. “Both Ron and I have to give our statements to the Ministry about what happened during the war. So far, only Harry has been assisting them. They want our corroborating stories. They let it wait so we could come here and collect you.”
Ron put his hand on her shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly.
“Oh. I see. How is Harry?” her mother asked looking terribly sad. Her father had turned to stare out the window.
“He’ll be all right,” Hermione whispered.
“We all will,” Ron said firmly.
“When will you be back?” her father asked, his voice distinctly strained.
Hearing her father so choked up released Hermione’s tears, and she started to cry. “I’ll be back before the summer is over. Before September first to visit, and I’ll bring some of your things from home.”
Her mother got up and held out her arms. Hermione clung to her as the two women wept. Her father turned and wrapped his arms around both of them. She could see Ron staring, uncertain what to do. She broke from her parents and held out her hand to him, and he grasped it immediately.
“Send an owl to let us know you got there safely,” her father said, and Hermione knew it was his way of accepting her magical life, otherwise he would’ve told her to call.
“Goodbye, Daddy, Mum. I’ll write to you and fill you in on everything that’s going on,” she said.
“Goodbye, Hermione. We love you,” her mum said.
Hermione was aware of her parents standing in the doorway, watching the two young people walk outside onto the pavement until they turned a corner.
“Let’s get our things from the hotel, turn in our room key, and go home,” Hermione said, her voice sounding oddly devoid of emotion.
“Whatever you want, Hermione,” Ron said, squeezing her hand.
They didn’t speak again before reaching the hotel.
Harry ducked out of the atrium and behind the glass doors as quickly as he could, moving away from the throng of people and reporters that had ambushed him as soon as he arrived. How had they known he’d be coming here today? He stood in the shadows, took a deep breath and tried to calm his breathing while watching Ministry workers rush to start their day.
Everyone was busy moving past the war — unless he was around. When it came to him, it seemed all people could focus on was that long, dark fight. It just wouldn’t end, and it left Harry with that painfully familiar feeling of being alone even in a crowded room.
He’d left The Burrow before Ginny had awoken that morning. He knew she was hacked off at him over the idea of his moving out. He also knew her ire came from concern. He didn’t want to hurt her, but he felt that staying with her family had the potential of hurting her worse. He wasn’t certain what he could say to make her understand this, and he didn’t like to see her upset.
He wished there was someone he could ask for advice, but there wasn’t. He certainly couldn’t ask Ron about his sister, and Hermione would put on that knowing face that he couldn’t stand to see — particularly when he didn’t just know.
He glanced at the watch he wore strapped around his wrist. It was a Weasley family heirloom, and it reminded him that if the circumstances had been different, he might have been able to ask Mr. or Mrs. Weasley about this stuff. With Ginny being their one and only daughter, however, that just wasn’t meant to be. He feared he was destined to forever flounder where personal relationships were involved.
Taking a deep breath, Harry steeled his resolve. He knew he was barely holding it together, but he didn’t want to appear weak in front of the Minister or Gawain Robards, his future boss, who was also meeting with them today.
Harry weaved his way through the now familiar route up to the Minister’s office, managing to keep his head down and pace brisk in order to avoid any further encounters. The Minister met him in the lobby and ushered him inside, offering him a cup of tea.
“How are you feeling, Harry? Is that cut completely healed?” the Minister asked.
“Yeah. I don’t think the Weasleys would’ve let me come back before it was gone,” Harry laughed ruefully. He appreciated their concern more than they’d ever know, but he honestly didn’t know what to do with it. Aside from Ron and Hermione — Hermione, really — no one had ever bothered with his physical condition in this way.
“Glad to hear it,” Kingsley smiled.
“Any news on Doogin MacCullity?” Harry asked. He hadn’t heard anything about the supposed Death Eater lead since Kingsley had mentioned him while Harry was in hospital.
Kingsley shook his head. “He was long gone by the time Auror Proudfoot arrived at the pub where he’d been spotted. He’d apparently asked a lot of questions about you, however.”
“Naturally,” Harry scowled.
“Don’t underestimate them, Harry,” Kingsley warned. “As happened after the last war, the Death Eaters are even more dangerous now because they have nothing to lose. You’ll recall what happened to the Longbottoms after Voldemort’s disappearance sixteen years ago.”
Harry nodded soberly. How could he ever forget what had happened to Neville’s parents? Harry’s parents were lost and gone in an instant. Neville’s parents were essentially gone, although they still lived. Harry couldn’t imagine living with that grieving process for so long. Neville was stronger than anyone knew.
“I’ve had a team at Grimmauld Place, but they still haven’t finished it yet.” Kingsley said.
“Did they find anything?” Harry asked quickly, his heart rate increasing.
The Minister winced. “The house is full of traps, but most are like the one you got caught in, designed to hold you or incapacitate you for capture. Voldemort had wanted you alive.”
“He wanted to kill me himself,” Harry muttered, lost in thought.
“I’m going to have the team run a second sweep before you return, but even then, I need you to be careful. The squad is very good at what they do, but in a house like Grimmauld Place, which was steeped in Dark magic even before the Death Eaters arrived, things can get missed,” Kingsley warned darkly.
“I’ll be careful,” Harry said.
“I need you to be more than careful, Harry. I need you to be vigilant. People get relaxed in their homes. It’s natural, but you remember what Grimmauld Place was like. It’s going to take you a good amount of time to change that atmosphere.”
Harry nodded slowly. “I know. I’m going to start in the kitchen and one of the bedrooms and go from there.”
“I had them try and remove old Mrs. Black’s portrait, but no luck. It’s attached with a Permanent Sticking Charm, and it’s a load-bearing wall, so it can’t simply be removed. She knew what she was doing,” Kingsley said, grimacing.
“I’ve thought about that,” Harry said. “But there’s no reason I can’t put another wall over the one that’s already there, or attach a Permanent Silencing Charm to the area.”
Kingsley nodded, grinning. “I think that just might work.”
“Good,” Harry replied, not wanting to get shouted at daily by Sirius’ deranged mother. That would be like moving back in with the Dursleys. Harry shuddered at the thought.
“Gawain Robards should be here shortly. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve filled him in on what you’ve told me. Along with several members of the Wizengamot, they are the only ones I’ve told about the Horcruxes. I trust Gawain nearly as much as I do Arthur and Molly,” Kingsley said.
“Does he get along with Mr. Weasley?” Harry asked. He knew there were a lot of Ministry employees who looked down on Mr. Weasley because of his devotion to Muggles, and he didn’t like to think of anyone looking down on the man who had been so good to him.
“He does. I’ve promoted Arthur to the Head of International Magical Cooperation. All Muggle-related issues now fall under this department. We need to improve relations between the Muggle and Magical worlds, and Arthur is just the person to do that. Gawain has asked him to come in and speak to the Aurors about the proper way to deal with Muggles.”
“That’s good,” Harry said, delighted to hear it. As far as he knew, Mr. Weasley hadn’t mentioned a promotion, but he could have missed it while he was in hospital. “If you’ve told Mr. Robards everything, why does he want to see me?”
Kingsley smiled. “Everyone wants to see you, Harry.”
Harry scowled, causing the Minister to laugh richly.
“He also has some questions on your time at Malfoy Manor. They’ve apprehended a Snatcher they think might be the one who turned you over to the Malfoys.”
“I don’t know his name, but I’d recognize him,” Harry said darkly.
The door opened and a very fit, middle-aged man entered. He was tall, nearly as tall as Kingsley, with slightly greying auburn hair and intense dark eyes. His eyes looked as if they missed nothing as he studied Harry appraisingly.
“It’s nice to finally make your acquaintance, Mr. Potter,” he said, doing the familiar gaze upwards to Harry’s scar.
Harry tried not to let his irritation show. “Hello, Mr. Robards. I’ve heard a lot about you, as well.”
“Well, let’s hope you can manage to overlook that then,” he said, grinning. His eyes showed a hint of mischief when he smiled, and Harry immediately warmed to him. “I understand you’re interested in coming to work for me,” Robards said, still watching Harry with that intense gaze. Harry felt as if he were being measured.
“Yes, sir,” he replied, holding the man’s gaze steadily.
“I look forward to it. We need some more good people. I’ve been told you’re more than a fair Seeker, as well. Our team is quite eager to meet you.”
Harry was flummoxed by this comment. “Team, sir?”
“Our inter-department Quidditch league here at the Ministry. Surely you’ve been told about it. The Auror Division is in need of a Seeker,” Robards replied easily.
Harry was stunned. Why hadn’t Ron mentioned this? “No… I didn’t know,” he said stupidly.
“Well, I hope you’re interested in playing. The team is already planning on it.”
“Of course! I’d love to play. Ron plays Keeper, as well,” he said, hoping there would be a spot for Ron.
“I’ll let you all work out the logistics once you start,” Robards said, smiling easily.
“Haven’t you got enough Quidditch issues on your plate, Gawain?” Kingsley asked, quirking an eyebrow.
Robards rolled his eyes. “Urgh. Don’t remind me.”
Harry stared confusedly between the two. “Er… is there something going on regarding Quidditch that I don’t know about?”
Robards sighed. “I’m investigating the Quidditch League Commissioner,” he said.
“Oh?” Harry said, intrigued.
“Yes. There has been some questionable activity during Voldemort’s reign. A player receiving a lifetime ban on one successful team, questionable calls on several others. I started looking into the Commissioner, Regor Baddell. I’ve found it more likely than not that he’s a Death Eater. His will be one of the early trials. For today, however, I just wanted to meet you and ask a few questions about Fenrir Greyback,” Robards said, growing serious.
“Greyback? What about him?” Harry asked.
“He was apprehended after the battle, and his trial is one of the first on the docket,” Robards said grimly.
“I know he was the one who originally turned Remus Lupin into a werewolf, as a child,” Harry spat. “Remus said he liked to position himself near children as the full moon approached. I can show you a Pensieve memory of that conversation.”
Robards shook his head. “It won’t be admissible since Lupin can’t be questioned, obviously. We have plenty of living witnesses ready to talk about him, however. I understand he was at Malfoy Manor whilst you were incarcerated there. Is this true?”
“Yeah… I mean, yes, sir.” Harry said. “He was there, along with Bellatrix Lestrange and the Malfoys.”
Robards nodded. “Good. That directly ties him to Voldemort. We have a Snatcher downstairs I’d like you to take a look at, as well.”
“All right. Greyback was also with the Death Eaters on top of the Astronomy Tower the night Professor Dumbledore was killed,” Harry said.
Robards eyes opened wider. “I hadn’t heard about that,” he said.
“Professor Dumbledore was particularly upset he was brought into the school,” Harry said, remembering that awful night.
“Understandably,” Robards said, lost in thought.
“It was Greyback who gave Bill Weasley his wounds that night,” Kingsley replied. “I was late to arrive.”
“This works, though. I can get corroborating testimony from some of the Weasleys who were also there, and the Malfoy boy, as well. I think we’ve got him,” Robards said, obviously pleased.
“Why don’t we head on down to the holding cells so you can take a look at our Snatcher, Harry?” the Minister said.
Harry nodded his agreement and followed the two men from the spacious office.
Ginny stood in front of the sink in the kitchen of The Burrow washing some vegetables for her mother. She was grateful her mum had reclaimed the kitchen, but Ginny still wished she could use magic to assist with her chores. Three more months, the familiar mantra rang in her head. Merlin, how she hated feeling defenseless. The restriction on the use of underage magic was ludicrous. Just look at what underage wizards and witches had been put through at Hogwarts last year.
Harry had left for the Ministry before she’d awoken that morning, and he still hadn’t returned. She wondered if things were that busy or if he was avoiding her. They’d argued about his plans to move into Grimmauld Place. She still didn’t want him to go while the situation with the Death Eaters loomed, but perhaps that would be the case for some time yet to come.
She couldn’t expect him to live here with her parents indefinitely. She wished it could last longer, though. She wished they all could stay close just a little bit longer. After their row, she and Harry never sat and talked more about their conversation in the hospital. Ginny still believed he was hiding something, and she was upset about it. She didn’t want to call him on it, however. She wanted him to confide on his own.
Ginny took out her ire on the hapless vegetables in the sink.
“Leave some for supper, dear,” her mum said casually as she passed Ginny on her way to the cold cupboard.
“Sorry, Mum,” Ginny replied listlessly.
“Everything all right, dear?” her mum asked as she used her wand to start the stew on the stove.
Ginny smiled, pleased her mum was acting more and more like herself. “It’s getting there.”
“George won’t be here for supper tonight. He said he was taking a witch out to eat. Do you know who the young lady might be?” her mum asked.
Ginny shook her head. “He’s been out on several dates recently… only I’m not certain they’re with the same witch.”
“Oh,” her mum replied, disappointed. “I suppose it’s good he’s getting out and back with some of his friends.”
Ginny nodded. “I think he’s close to reopening the shop. I know the mail orders have been steady.”
“The Minister has kept Harry for quite a while today,” her mum said, a bit too casually. “Curious since the trials have yet to begin.”
Ginny stiffened involuntarily but remained quiet.
“You two appear to be getting on well,” her mum continued to press.
Ginny shrugged. “We have, for the most part. He doesn’t open up easily,” she admitted, feeling the need to talk.
Her mum nodded. “I think Harry has spent a lifetime closing off his emotions. After the war, those emotions are likely hard to repress,” she said sagely.
“So you don’t think I should press?” Ginny asked, curious. Her mum always pressed, so it was odd she’d suggest otherwise.
“I think he needs to talk, but you know how he is. A gentle pressing would most likely work best. I think those relatives taught him to be secretive,” her mother said, scowling and stirring the stew rigorously.
Before Ginny could ask any more questions, the door opened, admitting her father returning from the Ministry. He walked over and kissed her mum on the head before peering into the pot.
“How’s your day, Gingerbear?” he asked.
“Fine, Dad. Did Harry come back with you?” she asked, unable to hide her anxiety.
“No. He’s not back yet?” her father asked, his brow furrowing.
“Haven’t seen him all day,” she said despondently.
“I had lunch with him, Kingsley and Gawain Robards in the cafeteria. They’d been discussing Fenrir Greyback’s trial,” her father said.
Her mother turned around, her eyes widening. “Are they starting the trials already?”
“Not quite yet, but Greyback will be one of the first. Did you know a girl named Lavender Brown that Ron dated?” her father asked, turning to Ginny.
Her mum stared at her blankly.
Ginny swallowed. “Yeah. He dated her for a while during my fifth year. She died in the battle.”
“Oh!” her Mum gasped.
“Yes,” her father said, nodding grimly. “Apparently Greyback was the one who killed her. Harry told us Hermione tried to intervene to save the poor girl, but she later succumbed to her injuries. Gawain wants to talk to Hermione once they return. She’ll be a key witness in this one, obviously.”
“You children have all seen too much,” her mum said, sniffling.
“And we can’t un-see it, so it helps to get some justice,” Ginny said firmly.
The kitchen door opened again, and this time Charlie and Percy entered, talking amiably.
“Hello, boys,” her father said while her mum walked over to kiss each on the check.
“We’ve been to George’s shop. It’s ready to open when he is, I think,” Charlie said, taking a seat at the table.
“All his books are in order, and George spent the day in the back, working on various potions. I don’t know what he’s doing, but there were a lot of sparks,” Percy said.
“Take a seat, everyone. Dinner is ready,” her mum said, placing the steaming pot of stew in the center of the table.
Ginny had just served herself when the door opened again, and Harry finally returned. He looked wan and tired. He glanced nervously at the sea of faces in the kitchen before resting his gaze on her. She smiled tentatively, and his shoulders sagged in relief.
“Hello, dear,” her mum said, rising to kiss Harry on the cheek. He promptly turned red. “Have a seat and tuck in.”
“Have you been with the Minister all this time?” her dad asked.
“Yeah. We started going over the first few trials, but there was a lot more information than what we first thought,” Harry said tiredly. “They need to talk to Ron and Hermione about some of it, so we’re waiting on them. I’ve got some news on the Quidditch Commissioner that Ron is going to love. We finished as much as we could today, so I don’t have to go back tomorrow.”
“Well, that’s a good thing. You’re supposed to be having a holiday,” her mum said disapprovingly. She began piling extra on Harry’s plate, and something about that familiar gesture made Ginny’s eyes sting.
Dinner conversation lulled as all the retuning men sated their appetites. Her mum was just serving pudding when the kitchen door opened once again and a travel-weary Ron and Hermione entered.
Ron’s head lifted as he noticeably sniffed the air, which was ripe with beef stew and treacle tart. Hermione looked listless and exhausted.
Her mum squealed, rushing toward the pair and enveloping them in a bone-crushing hug. “Why didn’t you tell us you were coming? Did you just get back?” she asked, breathlessly.
“Are your parents here, Hermione?” her dad asked, peering out the window into the garden.
Hermione’s eyes filled with tears as she looked at her feet. Ron wrapped his arm around her shoulders, guiding her towards an empty chair.
“We’ve just Apparated from Germany. We had a rest stop there,” Ron said.
“Apparated. What happened to the Muggle aeroplane?” Charlie asked.
“Were you unable to find them?” Ginny asked, knowing how much her friend had fretted over being able to locate her parents. Ginny could tell something was wrong, and she was worried about Hermione.
“Why don’t we hold the questions, and let them tell their story?” her dad said kindly, using a tone that brooked no argument.
Ron cleared his throat. Before he could speak, however, Hermione turned toward her mum. “Would it be all right if I stayed here for a bit longer, Mrs. Weasley?” she asked timidly.
“Of course, dear. You’re always welcome here,” her mum said, smiling gently at the distressed girl.
“Thank you. I’m going to go up for a rest. I’m really tired,” Hermione said. “Could you fill them in, Ron?”
“Yeah. I’ll be up in a minute,” Ron said, watching her go.
“What happened, Ron?” Harry asked as soon as Hermione had left the room.
Ron sank into a chair. “Her parents didn’t want to come back. They’ve restarted their practice there, and they don’t want to have to do it all over again if they came home.”
“Ouch,” Charlie winced.
“What about Hermione?” Ginny asked, perplexed.
“They wanted her to stay with them, but she has Ministry commitments, and she wants to return to Hogwarts in September,” Ron replied, his ears turning red.
Ginny was stunned. In all the scenarios her mind had conjured, this hadn’t been one of them. “What about their house?” she asked.
“They’re selling it,” Ron said. “She took it pretty hard.”
“Why don’t you three go up and have a visit? She probably would rather talk to a smaller crowd,” her mum said kindly.
Ron, Harry and Ginny pushed away from the table and headed up to Ginny’s room, where they found Hermione sitting on her bed, slowly unpacking her case. She looked up with red-rimmed eyes as they paraded into the room.
“Ginny, Harry,” Hermione said, throwing her arms around each of them in turn. “I missed you both. How are you?”
“I think the question is, ‘how are you, Hermione?’” Harry said.
“I’ll be all right,” she said, sniffling. “It’ll just take some getting used to — their being so far away. They really do seem happy there, so I suppose I can’t complain.”
“Of course you can complain. It doesn’t mean it’s not bloody awful for you,” Ron said.
“Language, Ron,” Hermione said, though she gave him a weak smile.
“So… were they upset about the Memory Charm?” Ginny asked tentatively.
Hermione nodded. “They were. They eventually said they understood, but I know they’re still not happy about it. They would’ve preferred if we’d all gone into hiding together. They wouldn’t accept I couldn’t do that.”
Harry looked rather upset, and Ginny was certain he was blaming himself. Hermione must’ve thought so, too, for she said, “It’s not your fault, Harry. I chose to do what I thought was right, and I’d do it again.”
“I’m still sorry, Hermione. I know you really wanted them to come home,” Harry said gruffly.
Hermione smiled sadly. “They do feel like they’re home, just not in the home I wanted. In my whole life, I’ve never really been at odds with my parents like this before. I know it’s fairly common, but it hasn’t been for me.”
“I was always at odds with my relatives over magic,” Harry said.
Hermione snorted. “It wasn’t that bad,” she said, earning a wry grin from Harry.
“What’s been happening here?” Ron asked. “Where’s George?”
“George has been doing better. The shop is just about ready to open, and he’s out on a date tonight, but none of us are sure with whom,” Ginny said.
“And what about you, two? Have you been revising, Ginny?” Hermione asked.
Ginny shifted uncomfortably. “I have. I’ve been to the Ministry a few times, so I’ve caught up with a few others in my year.”
“The sixth-year exams were difficult,” Hermione said. “I’ll help you since it looks as if I’ll be staying here a while. How about you, Harry?”
“I’m fine,” Harry said, shooting Ginny a warning glare.
“All due respect, you’re never fine, mate,” Ron said good-naturedly.
Ginny quirked her eyebrow, but Harry remained tight-lipped. Their interaction alone was enough to clue Hermione in that something was going on, even in her exhausted state.
“What happened?” she demanded. “I want the truth, Harry.”
Harry scowled, but apparently he was unable to lie to her when she was already obviously upset. “There was a scuffle with some Death Eaters on the pitch, but the wards never completely came down, so it’s all right. Bill and the Ministry have been here strengthening them.”
“An attack? Here? At The Burrow?” Ron shouted, jumping off the bed. The color rapidly drained from his face and made his freckles stand out starkly. His panicked eyes flicked back and forth between Harry and Ginny as if inspecting them for damage.
“Was anyone hurt?” Hermione gasped, looking at Ginny for confirmation.
“Percy was Stunned, but he’s all right,” Harry said.
When Ginny realized Harry wasn’t going to tell the rest of the story, she piped in, “Harry was the one they were after—”
“Ginny,” Harry interrupted.
“They got him with a Cutting Curse that did a fair bit of damage. He spent several days in St. Mungo’s,” Ginny continued, unabashed.
“Bloody hell,” Ron bellowed, beginning to pace. “I knew I shouldn’t have left you. How many of them were there? How are we protecting you now?”
“We’re not protecting me,” Harry said, irritated. “I’m fine, Ron, and I’m not going back under house arrest under any circumstances. I can take care of myself.”
“Oh, but Harry… ” Hermione said tearfully.
“There is nothing for it, Hermione,” Harry said firmly. “The Death Eaters are out there, and the Ministry is looking for them. In the meantime, I just have to be aware of my surroundings.”
Ron continued to pace, glancing at Harry every few seconds as if to make sure he hadn’t disappeared. “And the Ministry strengthened the wards here?” he asked.
“I also went back and checked out Grimmauld Place,” Harry said. “I think I’m going to move in there eventually.”
“What do you mean you’re moving?” Ron asked, spinning around and facing Harry fiercely. “You can’t move out on your own with all Those-Who-Want-to-be-Named after you.”
Harry struggled to hold his temper. “I was thinking of asking you if you wanted to move in with me, but not if you’re going to try and be my shadow,” he said through gritted teeth.
“Oh,” Ron said, brightening. Apparently he hadn’t yet considered the idea of moving out on his own. Ginny suspected he was planning on shadowing Harry no matter how his mate felt about it. Ginny was glad.
“It needs a lot of work, but you can pick a room and start clearing it out and setting it up how you like. Hermione, you’re welcome to pick a room, as well,” Harry offered tentatively.
Hermione smiled tremulously.
“What about me?” Ginny asked, experiencing that familiar, left-out feeling she often had around the tight-knit group.
Harry looked at her quickly, his face coloring. “Er… you’re more than welcome to choose a room, as well, Ginny. But I don’t think your parents are going to allow you to come stay with me,” he said, scuffing his foot.
Ginny knew he was right, but she was feeling bold, and she was not going to be left out. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but I want to do a room, too.”
“You get to be the one to tell Mum and Dad though,” Ron said, shuddering.
Harry nodded in agreement, eyes wide.
“Did Kingsley say anything about the inspection?” Ginny asked. She was hesitant to bring up this touchy topic in front of Ron and Hermione, but she had to know.
Harry’s disconcertingly bright green eyes locked on hers, and she knew he was wary, as well. “Yeah,” he said. “They did a sweep and found several traps. They’re going to go through it again before I go back.”
“What’s this?” Hermione asked.
“It appears the Death Eaters left behind some traps. Kingsley is having a team from the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes decontaminate,” Harry said.
Ron suddenly swatted Harry on the back of the head.
“Hey! What was that for?” Harry asked, rubbing his head.
“You, git. I can’t even leave you for a few days without you ending up in hospital,” Ron said irritably.
“Yeah, I did it just to irritate you, Ron,” Harry said, rolling his eyes.
“Well don’t do it again,” Ron said hotly.
Harry stared at him incredulously while Hermione and Ginny began to snicker. The four friends sat together well into the evening. Although Ginny would never admit it out loud, it was good to have Ron home.
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