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SIYE Time:22:11 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: 86609; Chapter Total: 3712
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
That scene in Deathly Hallows where Harry fights with Lupin always stayed with me. I was really annoyed with Ron and Hermione at the time. They both grew up with strong, loving families, and I sometimes, I think they just canít fully appreciate what Harryís life was like. Anyway, that scene bugs me.

Everyone seems to really miss Mrs. Weasley. I just felt that I highlighted her a lot in my past stories, and I thought Mr. Weasley deserved some attention. Iím well ahead of you in the writing, but I promise Iíll add more of Molly in at a later point.

Shout out to all those who caught my Quidditch Commissioner reference. Since vindication was received in football, Iíve decided not to give the Quidditch Commissioner to the Dementors (as Iíd planned had it gone the other way!) Instead, Iíll use Sherylynís suggestion and just have him share a cell with Umbridge. You decide which is worse!




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Chapter Thirteen
Setbacks



The next several days passed quietly at The Burrow as George spent more and more time at his shop readying it for the Grand Reopening. Alicia Spinnet had been spending time there as well, decorating the shelves. Ginny thought it looked really good and more… polished, somehow. She suspected Alicia had purposely tried to make it a bit different for George’s sake.

Hermione had been quiet and withdrawn since her return, but as she spent more and more time at the Ministry going over her testimony, Ginny could see traces of the girl she knew re-emerging. Hermione never did anything half-way.

Ron tried to divide his time between the Ministry and assisting George while keeping a vigilant eye on Harry. Ginny could see that Harry was beginning to chafe under Ron’s frantic need to know where he was at all times. But she also suspected Harry knew it was how Ron was coping with the war so he gritted his teeth and bore it.

Both Percy and Charlie continued to help George, as well, but Ginny could see that Charlie was beginning to feel the pull of his dragons. He’d taken a leave after Fred’s death, but she didn’t think he’d be there with them all much longer. She tried not to think about it too much.

Even Bill and Fleur hadn’t been visiting as much. Both had returned to work at Gringotts, although Bill seemed to spend a lot of time with the Minister. Ginny knew they’d been friendly during the war, but she wondered if Bill was now acting as a liaison between the goblins and the Ministry.

As had happened in the first few days after the war, she and Harry hadn’t found a lot of time to be alone. Either Ron or Hermione were always around, and as more time passed, Ginny feared Harry was less and less likely to discuss what was troubling him. Ginny really wanted to talk with Hermione about it, but since Hermione was going through so much of her own trauma at the moment, Ginny didn’t want to add to her burden.

She was planning on going with Hermione today to the older girl’s house. They were going to start packing up some of Hermione’s parents’ things, and Ginny didn’t think Hermione should be alone. Ron had to go to the Ministry, and Harry was going over to Grimmauld Place. It was the first time since Kingsley had given him the all-clear. Ron planned to meet him over there after finishing at the Ministry.

Ginny entered the crowded kitchen and poured herself a bowl of cereal. Rain spattered against the window in a steady rhythm, coming down so hard it was impossible to see outside. Sitting at the table, Percy wore his Ministry robes, ready to head into his office, and Ron nicked sausage links from his plate every time Percy turned to talk to Charlie or Harry. She knew Harry saw what Ron was doing, and he was having trouble containing his sniggers.

“Where is your mum this morning?” Hermione asked, watching Ron dubiously.

“She went over to visit Andromeda Tonks,” Ginny replied.

Harry looked up sharply. “She did? I didn’t know she was doing that.”

Ginny nodded. “Mrs. Tonks has invited her several times, but this is the first time Mum accepted.”

“That will be good for her,” Percy replied. “She needs to get out of this house a bit more.”

The kitchen door opened, and a sopping-wet George stumbled in, appearing very rumpled and disoriented. His eyes were bloodshot, and he cringed as the door slammed behind him.

“Morning, George,” Charlie said, clearly amused. “My, you must have been up and out early this morning.”

George slumped into a chair beside Harry, staring blankly at the coffee. Harry poured him a cup and placed it in front of him while Hermione uttered a quick drying spell.

“Are you just getting in?” Ginny asked, scandalized. She couldn’t believe her mum would have gone out if she’d known George hadn’t come home last night. Perhaps normalcy wasn’t as close as she thought.

“So?” George replied belligerently.

“So you could have at least let someone know you’d be out,” Ginny snapped, slightly horrified to realize how much she sounded like her mum.

“Sod off, Ginny,” George grumbled.

Ginny’s eyes widened in surprise. She and George usually got on best amongst her siblings, and she was stung by his tone.

“Easy, George,” Harry said, his eyes flashing. “She’s only worried about you.”

George looked as if he were about to say something harsh, but apparently rethought it. He shrugged his shoulders instead. “Sorry, Ginny.”

“Where have you been?” Percy asked, his face pinched in disapproval.

“Out with a friend. It got late, I stayed over, all right? It’s no big deal,” George said sullenly.

“We’re concerned that something could’ve happened to you, and we wouldn’t have known,” Percy said, frowning.

“The worst thing that could ever possibly happen to me already did, so what are you on about?” George snarled, causing an uncomfortable silence to descend upon the kitchen. The pounding of the rain against the roof echoed through the house.

“What happened to upset you, George?” Ginny finally asked.

George scowled. “Alicia keeps messing with the shop. It doesn’t even look right anymore.”

“I thought it looked rather nice,” Ginny said.

“And yesterday I worked on a new invention, and it worked,” George continued as if Ginny hadn’t spoken.

“Why would that upset you?” Ron asked.

“It’s a new addition to the Skiving Snack boxes, Rash-Giving Radishes. They cause you to break out in hives for about twenty minutes. Fred and I could never get them to work right, but I managed it yesterday.”

From the corner of her eye, Ginny saw Harry wince.

“So…. that’s good, isn’t it?” Ron asked, clearly confused.

“Oh, it’s great if you want to move on, but I don’t. This was our shop. Ours! Not mine; ours. There shouldn’t be any products that didn’t come from both of us,” George roared.

“But, the shop needs to go on to keep Fred’s memory alive,” Percy said quietly.

“Don’t you talk to me about Fred’s memory,” George said, rising to his feet and clenching his fists. “Don’t you, of all people, talk to me about remembering Fred. You weren’t even here. You never approved of any of our products. You thought our business was just a stupid phase that would pass.”

Percy visibly swallowed, looking miserable. “I’d give anything to change that, George, but I can’t. There are a lot of things I can’t change.”

“There’s a lot of things none of us can change. It never should’ve happened. It should have been you,” George shouted hoarsely.

“I know!” Percy shouted back, causing the rest of the room’s occupants to inhale sharply.

Ginny felt chills running up her arms, and her breath caught in her throat.

“Don’t you think I know you all think that? Don’t you think I’ve thought it myself?” Percy asked, his voice breaking.

“Percy, no,” Hermione said tearfully.

“I’ve got to go to work,” Percy said, standing quickly and rushing out the door. He Disapparated before anyone had the presence of mind to stop him.

George stared at the empty door, thunderstruck, before silently turning on his heel and rushing upstairs to his bedroom.

Ginny felt sick to her stomach. The worst part of all was knowing that the same awful, miserable, ugly thought had briefly crossed her own mind after Fred’s death. Looking at the tortured expressions on both Ron and Charlies’ faces, she knew she wasn’t the only one who’d felt it.

She didn’t mean it. It wasn’t true. She’d never trade one brother for another. Fred and Percy were very different, and she loved them differently, but she did love them both. She couldn’t stand to think how miserable Percy must feel. A sob rose in her throat as her breath hitched, and her head fell into her hands.

Harry’s arm instantly wrapped around her, pulling her to his side. She buried her face in his shoulder. His wonderful, woodsy smell didn’t comfort her this time, and she began to cry.

She could hear Hermione crying, too. “Oh, this is awful,” Hermione sniffed. “What are we going to do? Someone needs to go after him.”

Ginny wasn’t even certain to which “him” she was referring.

“We need to let them both cool off a bit,” Charlie said, sounding rather stunned. “I don’t know what possessed George to say that. I thought he was doing better.”

“Sometimes it just hits you,” Harry said quietly, pulling Ginny closer.

“I don’t think that,” Ginny said, struggling to regain her composure. “I don’t wish it was Percy instead of Fred. I wish it wasn’t either of them.”

“I know,” Harry soothed.

“But we’ve all thought it,” Ron said dully.

“Ron!” Hermione cried.

“What? Don’t deny it. The thought has crossed all our minds, even if we don’t really mean it. The guilt kills me for thinking it, but I’m not going to deny that I did. And you can’t either,” Ron said, glaring at Charlie.

Charlie looked down at the table. “It’s just that Fred had been here all along, standing with us when Percy deserted us.”

“But he came back,” Ginny said, her voice muffled against Harry’s shirt. “He came back when we needed him most.”

“I know. We all know that, Ginny,” Charlie said. “We just have to work harder at making sure Percy knows that.”

“George must be tearing himself up, too. I know I felt guilty for thinking it, but even I didn’t come out and say it,” Ron said.

“George just needs to know you understand and won’t hold it against him. I think Percy is in rougher shape,” Harry said, his voice very low.

Harry had been through all the grieving emotions while suffering from his losses, and she knew guilt was a familiar burden. She gently kissed him on the cheek, trying to let him know that they were here for him, too.

“So what do we do?” Charlie asked, staring at Harry hopefully.

Harry shrugged. “Just be there even if you don’t think they want you there. Try to include Percy more. I think he still feels as though he doesn’t quite fit.”

“Yeah… well—”

“Ron!” Hermione hissed.

“What? Pretending doesn’t change anything. We all know it. It doesn’t mean he can’t ever fit. The war changed him. It changed all of us. We just need to find a new way of fitting,” Ron said, struggling for words.

“Exactly,” Harry replied earnestly.

“I’m going to swing by the Ministry and check on Percy,” Charlie said.

“I’ll go check on George,” Ginny replied, untangling herself from Harry’s embrace.

“I’m really glad Mum didn’t see that,” Ron said.

They all nodded fervently before finishing their breakfast in silence, all lost in their own tortured thoughts.

*****

Bone-weary, Harry collapsed on a dilapidated old sofa in the drawing room of Grimmauld Place, causing a cloud of dust to rise around him. After the intense row at The Burrow that morning, and a full day spent scrubbing the kitchen here at number twelve, Harry felt both physically and emotionally drained.

Ron was supposed to join him when he was finished at the Ministry, but he’d never stopped by. Harry assumed that perhaps he’d met up with Percy, since everyone was feeling particularly raw about the blow up that morning.

He hated seeing the Weasley family so strained. They were the best family he’d ever known, and he didn’t want to see them hurt. Harry knew that Mr. Weasley, in particular, had spent a lot of his time checking up on him and ensuring he was all right. He didn’t have to do it, but Harry had appreciated the fact that he did. Now Harry was worried that perhaps Mr. Weasley had missed some strain amongst his own sons while he was worrying about Harry.

He hoped not. He’d never meant to come between any of them.

He couldn’t help but remember that awful vision that had emerged from the locket to torment Ron. It had told him that Ron’s mum liked Harry more than her own son. It was ridiculous, of course, but it concerned Harry that Ron worried about it. Ron had shared his family with Harry from the moment they’d first met, and Harry had never meant to take advantage of that.

Now he was worried that some of Ron’s brothers might feel the same. Harry wasn’t certain what he should do about it.

The old sofa he was lying on really was disgusting, but Harry didn’t particularly care at the moment. He just wanted a place to rest his weary muscles and shut his eyes for a minute, hopefully quieting some of the many worries racing around in his brain. His eyes drifted shut almost against his will.

He wasn’t certain how long he’d been there when his eyes popped open, startled by an insistent scratching sound at the front door. Grasping his wand, he sat up on the musty couch and glanced around the room warily. He must have dozed off after all.

“Ron,” he called, but was met with silence.

The scratching sound happened again, and it was coming from the doorway. Reminding himself that Voldemort was dead and buried and there was no reason to be so tense, he tiptoed stealthily along the floor, whipping the door open and brandishing his wand in front of him.

There was no one there.

“Hiya, Harry,” a voice giggled at his feet.

Harry looked down to find George Weasley sprawled on the front steps, one eye squinting up at Harry’s legs. Harry could see right into the hole on the side of George’s head where his ear had once been.

“What are you doing, George?” Harry asked, feeling his heart rate begin to slow.

“Visitin’. Don’t you have friends who come t’call?” George asked, clumsily pulling himself to his feet. “If you’re gonna live here, folks’ll come.”

Harry had to grab George’s arm to haul him upright and drag him inside. The smell of George’s breath nearly knocked him over.

“You’ve been drinking,” Harry said, grimacing as he tried to hold his head away from George’s face.

“‘Course I have. I’m enjoying life — thas what I’m s’pose to do. Everyone keeps telling me. I need to aks you a question,” George said, lurching into the drawing room and bumping into the sofa rather than sitting on it.

“Oh? And what’s that?” Harry asked, sitting down next to George. He couldn’t help but be amused by George’s wide-eyed sincerity.

“You’ve been dead, right?”

Harry’s breath caught in his throat and his body stiffened. Images of a sickly green flash of light zooming toward him filled his mind, leaving him gasping. His hands shook and his breath caught in his throat as he felt his own color drain. The room appeared to darken and elongate, as if he was looking at it from a stretching distance. He had to grip the arm of the sofa to hold the world steady.

George completely missed Harry’s reaction. “I’m wondering how it works, see. Are you jus’ aware of what everyone you knew is doing, or d’you follow ‘em around like a ghost — only a ghost we can’t see? Sometimes, I feel like Fred is right there, egging me on with a new ‘vention, right? But when I was with this witch last night — Lola — oh, Harry, you should have seen Lola. She taught me a thing or two — an’ I thought I knew a lot.

“Anyway, she got all shirty with me when I told her about the laugh Fred was prolly having over what we did on the stairs. She didn’t find it funny — thought it was kind of sick, actually. Now I’m worried Fred’s gone all pervy in his deadness.

“What d’you think?” George asked, his eyes boring into Harry intently.

Harry stared back, flabbergasted.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” George said, sighing in relief. He’d somehow found comfort in Harry’s amazed stare. “There are plenty of dead birds Fred’s prolly putting his own moves on. He had some great moves — worked on the ladies every time.”

He slumped down further on the couch, shoulders sagging. “I miss Fred,” he sighed.

George’s delight was descending into melancholy, and Harry felt himself caught up in that same whirlpool of emotion, drifting ever closer to the drain right along with the twin-who-lived.

“I miss him, too, George,” Harry whispered.

“Yeah. I know you do. See, that’s what I like about you, Harrikins. You understand about this dead stuff.”

He suddenly pulled a bottle of fire whisky from the pocket of his jacket.

“Hey, look what I’ve got. Accio glasses,” he said before Harry could stop him.

Two dusty but unbroken glasses shot up from the kitchen stairs, and Harry had to duck to avoid being hit. They landed harmlessly on the sofa. George filled both glasses to the brim, spilling a generous amount onto the floor below.

“To Fred,” he said solemnly.

“To Fred,” Harry said, sighing.

“And all the dead birds he’s trying to get a leg over.”

Harry sniggered; George snorted, and they each finished their drink. Eyes streaming, Harry began to cough, forgetting how much the fire whiskey burned going down. He’d only had it that one time at The Burrow after fleeing Privet Drive. George quickly refilled their glasses while Harry caught his breath.

“To Colin Creevey, who also left a brother behind,” George said.

“To Colin,” Harry replied, beginning to feel rather morose himself. He took a drink and raised the glass again, “And to Professor Lupin, who was kinda like my dad’s brother.”

“To Professor Lupin,” George agreed. “He was the bess D’fense teacher we ever had. We should toast him twice.”

“Okay,” Harry agreed readily. The first drink had made him comfortably warm inside, and this third one was going down without a problem at all.

Harry hadn’t really intended for it to happen, but it had felt so good to just let go. He and George toasted Fred and everyone else they’d lost — plus a few of the survivors. Harry discovered that the more he drank, the more the constant pressure on his chest seemed to ease. Each time the bottle began to run low, George simply tapped it with his wand, and it refilled.

“I don’t really want Percy t’die,” George said, his nose quite red. Somehow, the two of them had slipped off the sofa and now sat on the floor in front of it, their legs sprawled in front of them. They kept kicking the other’s foot at each new thought.

“I know. Perty… Perry… Perce… Him, y’know. He doesn’t wanna be dead either,” Harry slurred. “He’s sorry. He wants t’take it back, but he can’t. None of us can.”

“I wish I told him. Told him he was the best twin I ever had,” George said, wistfully.

Harry nodded. “He was the best twin I ever had, too,” Harry said, letting his head drop back onto the sofa. He knew something sounded wrong, but he couldn’t work out what it was.

“Yeah,” George said, clinking his glass against Harry’s. “I wish Fred was here. He’d know how ta fix it with Percy.”

Harry couldn’t seem to lift his head from the couch, so he just let it stay there while George refilled their glasses. He didn’t want to feel sad anymore. He wanted to forget.

*****

Ron finally left the Ministry much later than he’d intended, and Apparated to Grimmauld Place. He’d spent the day with the Minister and Gawain Robards, his future boss, which Ron found rather intimidating. Harry had given them most of the details, so Ron simply had to confirm what he knew.

He’d also met with his father and Percy for a late lunch. After the row that morning, the lunch started very strained. Dad, in that serene way he had, managed to loosen both him and Percy up, and they’d actually had a nice time.

Ron felt tired now and concerned that he’d left Harry on his own for so long. He was supposed to meet him here hours ago to work on fixing up the place. The idea of moving out and living on his own had really grown on Ron. After living on his own for a year during the Horcrux hunt, he was beginning to find the restrictions of The Burrow and his mother’s hovering too constricting.

Not that he wasn’t happy to see his mother emerging from her depression. He was, but he needed some space of his own, as well. He realized he was being hypocritical since he knew that he was driving Harry spare with his own hovering, but that was different. Harry had actually died. He got hurt as soon as Ron had left for Australia. Harry needed someone to keep an eye on him. Ron didn’t.

He pushed open the door to Grimmauld Place. All the Weasleys had been granted access when Bill and Harry had reset the wards, but he stopped short when he was met with the sound of singing.

Loud, intoxicated singing of the Hogwarts School Song.

“Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts…”

Bemused, Ron followed the sound of the voices, definitely recognizing them as belonging to Harry and George. He found them sprawled on the floor in the sitting room, a bottle of fire whiskey between them, and the two of them pissed out of their minds. For George, this had been a fairly frequent occurrence recently, but Ron had never seen Harry in this condition.

Harry’s eyes were watery, and his lids drooped heavily over them. His face was flushed, and he was impossibly slurring his words. George’s condition wasn’t much better.

“What the bloody hell is going on in here?” Ron demanded, causing the other two to flail wildly. Harry dropped his glass, spilling the amber liquid all over his jeans. He didn’t even appear to notice.

“Ron!” Harry said, a delighted grin spreading across his face. “George came t’call.”

“I can see that,” Ron said, slowing moving towards the pair. He picked up Harry’s glass and moved it away from him.

“Want some fire whiskey?” George asked, enunciating each word carefully.

“I think you two have had enough,” Ron said, exasperated.

“Nah,” George said. “I brought some over, and Harry joined me.”

“He needed toknowaboutbeingdead,” Harry slurred.

“What?” Ron roared.

“I had some questions ‘bout bein’ dead, and Harry cleared them up,” George said as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Harry began to giggle helplessly. “I missed you, Ron,” he said, staring backwards up at Ron.

Ron gaped.

“How can he be this much drunker than you if you were already drunk when you got here?” he asked George incredulously.

“He’s a skinny little bloke,” George said before moving to take another sip of his drink.

Ron brandished his wand and Vanished both the bottle and the glasses.

“Wha’d ya do that for?” George demanded irritably.

“I’m all wet,” Harry said, apparently finally noticing his spilled drink. “Did I piss myself?”

George began laughing uncontrollably.

Ron felt a headache building. He couldn’t handle this alone. He needed reinforcements. He conjured a Patronus and sent it off with a message to Hermione.

“Nice job, Ron,” Harry said happily as he watched Ron’s terrier trot from the room. He began to tilt sideways, and George had to push him back upright.

“We should play Quidditch,” George said. “Imagine Harry trying to stay on his broom!”

“No Quidditch,” Ron said firmly before Harry could agree. He’d seen the spark in his friend’s glassy eyes.

“D’you know the Quidditch Commissioner’s a Death Eater?” Harry asked suddenly.

“What?” Ron asked, derailed.

“Yeah. Robards tole me,” Harry said.

“I knew that bloke was shady. I never liked him,” Ron said.

“Me, either,” George said too loudly.

Ron heard the front door opening, and he shouted, “We’re in the sitting room.”

He heard footsteps approaching before Hermione and Ginny poked their heads through the door. Hermione studied the scene in front of her carefully, while Ginny’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Hiya!” Harry greeted before dissolving into giggles.

Both girls stared at Ron, stunned.

“At least he’s a happy drunk,” Ron said, shrugging.

“What happened?” Hermione asked, apparently unable to drag her eyes away from this extremely cheerful Harry.

“George happened,” Ron said dryly.

“Hey, Gin Gin,” George slurred. “I got your boyfriend pissed.”

“I can see that,” Ginny said, unable to suppress a giggle. “Any particular reason?”

“I needed to know about being dead,” George said.

Both Ginny and Hermione’s smiles faded.

“You what?” Ginny asked.

“I was worried about what Fred was doing, but Harry said he’s doing fine. He’s watching over me, so we’ll be okay,” George said.

Harry nodded enthusiastically.

“We toasted him,” George said, searching for his missing glass. “We toasted everyone who fought.”

“We toasted Lupin twice,” Harry said.

“Lupin told me he was proud of you when we were doing PotterWatch,” George said, staring at Harry intently.

Harry attempted to widen his drooping eyes. “He did?”

“Uh-huh. He said you kicked his arse and made him see sense when he needed it. Called you his hero,” George said, lost in thought. The two of them conversed as if they’d forgotten Ron and girls were there.

Harry visibly choked up as his eyes filled. Ron panicked that Harry was going to cry, and he stared helplessly at Hermione and Ginny. Harry would never forgive him if Ron let him cry in this condition.

“Okay, George,” Ron said nervously.

“We need to get you both home,” Hermione said, and Ron could’ve kissed her.

Harry and George continued their conversation as if there’d been no interruption.

“Ron ‘n Hermione didn’t like when I shouted at him. Thought I was wrong,” Harry said dejectedly.

George shook his head. “Lupin said he regretted jinxing you more than anything he’d ever done, and he hoped you forgave him. Said he’d never forgive himself for treating you like your damn relatives did.”

“Nah,” Harry said dismissively, waving his hand in the air. “Lupin could never be that bad.”

Ron heard Ginny inhale sharply. Harry rarely talked about life with the Dursleys, and Ron knew he wouldn’t want to now.

“Then after we toasted, Harry pissed himself,” George said triumphantly.

Harry nodded as if the story was complete.

“He did not,” Ron snapped watching the girls’ incredulous expressions. “He spilled his drink all over his leg.”

“M’tired,” Harry said suddenly, sliding down and resting his head back on the sofa.

“Oh, Harry. Come on, at least sit up on the couch,” Ginny said, tugging on his arm and trying to get him to move onto the sofa.

“We can’t leave him here,” Hermione said shrilly. “I don’t think it’s safe to leave him here all night.”

“Well, we can’t bring him home like this, either. Mum has been missing a lot, but there is no way she can miss this,” Ron replied.

“How ‘bout my flat?” George said. “Thass where I slept lass night.”

“That’s a good idea. I’ll stay with them,” Ron said.

Hermione frowned, obviously not thrilled with the idea.

“It’s a better choice than here,” Ron insisted.

“Ron, you Side-Along George, and Hermione can take Harry. I’ll meet you there by Floo,” Ginny said.

A moment later, all five appeared in George’s flat.

“M’going to bed,” George said, stumbling into his own room.

Hermione hovered a now passed-out Harry into Fred’s old room. When she returned, she, Ginny and Ron all slumped onto various chairs in George’s sitting area.

“I’ll just kip on the couch,” Ron said, feeling incredibly drained.

“I put a bucket next to Harry’s bed. You might want to do the same for George. Neither of them are going to have a pleasant morning,” Hermione said. “Whatever possessed him to drink that much?”

“George,” Ginny said simply.

“I reckon George was upset about the row with Percy this morning,” Ron said uncomfortably.

They all paused, considering that thought.

“What were they talking about with Lupin?” Ginny finally asked. “Was that when he tracked you down at Grimmauld Place?”

“Yes,” Hermione said, launching into the story of everything that happened when Lupin had wanted to join them on the Horcrux hunt.

Ginny looked horrified. “And you didn’t realize why that would upset Harry?” she demanded.

“I know,” Hermione said weakly. “I felt dreadful when I remembered what he’d said, but it was so tense at the time.”

“What who said?” Ginny asked.

“Harry. He said, ‘Parents shouldn’t leave their kids unless they have to.’ It was after everything had settled down that I really thought about it,” Hermione said, sniffling.

Ron shifted uncomfortably. Apparently Hermione had given this a lot more thought than he had. He had thought Harry was bang out of line.

“How could it have not have occurred to you how many parental figures he’d already lost?” Ginny demanded harshly.

Oh. Damn.

“I know,” Hermione wailed. “I told you, it was very tense and emotional at the time. We were all on edge. Sometimes I think I took my parents for granted.”

Oh, no. Ginny wasn’t going to drag Hermione down again.

“Neither of us caught on, Hermione, but that’s over and done with now. We can’t undo the past,” he said firmly.

Hermione stared up at him, her watery eyes shining, but she smiled. “Come on, Ginny. We should get back before your parents begin to wonder why everyone is missing.”

“I’d rather stay,” Ginny said, staring worriedly at Harry’s closed door.

“So would I, but Ron can handle this,” Hermione said firmly.

Ron’s chest swelled and he felt as if he’d grown taller as he stood there. Yes, he could handle this.

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