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SIYE Time:2:48 on 22nd July 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: 80768; Chapter Total: 3440
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Im eager to hear your thoughts. This particular scene of Harry reaching his breaking point was the first one that came to me. The rest of the story has been written around it. I think I needed a drink once it was finally finished.

Thanks, as always, to my extraordinary beta, Sherylyn, whose tireless patience is really appreciated. Give a shout-out to Sherylyn for getting this ready every week.






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Chapter Fourteen
Unraveled



*Warning — strong language ahead.

Harry slowly drifted back to consciousness, feeling wretched. For some reason, his eyelids were stuck together and didn’t want to open. He finally pried them apart before quickly slamming them shut again. The room was unbearably bright. Harry felt as if a herd of hippogriffs were stampeding through his skull.

What the hell happened?

Everything was a blur. He remembered being at Grimmauld Place when George arrived unexpectedly.

George.

The way Harry felt was entirely George Weasley’s fault. As soon as Harry could stand, he was going to find George and put him under the Cruciatus Curse. Then he was going to Hex him. And then put him under the Cruciatus again.

Harry groaned, then winced when it made his head pound in double time. His stomach roiled as he tentatively pulled himself to a sitting position. He took several deep breaths trying to settle it. Blearily, he looked around the unfamiliar bedroom. He had no idea where he was.

Harry leaned over the bed, holding his head in his hands and trying to piece together how he got wherever he was. It proved too much for his unsteady stomach. His head began to spin, and a lump formed in his throat. He couldn’t force it down.

Panicking due to the fact he didn’t know where the loo was, he sprinted from the bedroom into a larger, brighter living space. He had trouble getting his legs to cooperate, as he made an ungainly dash towards a door off the main room. He pulled it open, barely making it to the toilet before the entire contents of his stomach were expelled.

His eyes watered as he retched several more times. It took a moment before he realized someone was lightly rubbing his back.

“Come on, mate. Let’s get you out of here,” Ron said. He pulled Harry to his feet and slowly assisted him back to the bedroom.

Harry sank wearily onto the bed. “Where am I?” he asked. His head throbbed fit to burst.

“At the twi- er, George’s flat above the shop. You weren’t in any condition to show up back at The Burrow last night,” Ron said, sitting on the edge of the bed.

The movement caused Harry’s stomach to lurch again. “Is George here, too?” he mumbled, concentrating on breathing.

“Yeah, he’s in his room. Why?” Ron asked.

“Cuz I’m gonna kill him,” Harry said weakly.

Ron laughed. “I know there is some kind of hangover remedy you can brew, but I’ve never done it. Hang on, maybe George has some. I’ll be right back.”

Ron exited the room, and Harry was left watching it spin. He felt dreadful. He wasn’t certain he’d ever felt this ghastly in his entire life. He was vaguely alarmed that he couldn’t remember anything of what he might have said or done the night before, but he didn’t have the energy to be overly concerned. He had no idea how he’d found Ron along the way, either.

As he lay there staring at the unfamiliar room, it occurred to him that he hadn’t set a Silencing Charm before he slept. Come to think of it, he had no memories of any nightmares, either. Apparently the fire whiskey suppressed the dreams. He’d have to store that fact to examine later. He couldn’t think too heavily on anything at the moment. He hoped Ron had made a decent excuse to Ginny and Mrs. Weasley on why he hadn’t made it home.

When Ron returned, George was with him, looking marginally better than Harry felt. “What are you doing here?” Harry groaned.

George grinned, holding up a small flask of greenish liquid. Harry’s stomach turned at the sight.

“Ron tells me you’re in need of this. I made it myself,” George said.
Harry eyed the flask warily.

“Nothing can undo the effects completely, but this will at least let you feel human,” George said, handing it over.

Harry downed it quickly. For a moment he thought it would come back up, but then his stomach settled, and the ringing in his head diminished to a manageable pitch.

Harry nodded his thanks.

“Better?” Ron asked.

“Yeah,” Harry said, sitting up.

“Good enough for some breakfast?” Ron asked. “I’m starving.”

“Not that good, but I’ll take some coffee,” Harry said.

The three of them moved into the small kitchen that was part of the same room as the living area. The flat was basically one big room with the two bedrooms and the loo off of it. A small entry to the stairway down to the shop took up one corner. George and Harry both slumped into chairs while Ron poured some coffee. He poured himself a bowl of cereal from a container on the counter.

“Can I ask exactly how you two ended up so sloshed on the floor last night?” Ron asked, his eyes twinkling with amusement.

“Dunno,” Harry mumbled grumpily.

“It started by toasting Fred, then we just continued to toast,” George said, holding his head up with one hand.

George’s eyes were bloodshot, and his face was pale. Harry reckoned he didn’t look much better. He glared at George across the table.

“Don’t blame me,” George said. “I didn’t lift the glass for you. You did that all yourself, you Chosen Drunk.”

Ron snorted.

The fireplace roared green and Mr. Weasley stepped out, brushing the ash from his clothing. “Good morning, boys,” he said, smiling knowingly.

Harry shut his eyes. He did not want to be seen right now, especially by Mr. Weasley. For some reason, he feared the man would be disappointed, and that thought disturbed him. He shifted uncomfortably.

“Morning, Dad,” both Ron and George chorused, apparently unconcerned.

Mr. Weasley sat down at the table and poured himself some coffee. “Hermione and your sister told me you boys had a rather eventful evening,” he said.

Harry’s brow furrowed in confusion. “They were there?” he asked.

“Yes, they were there. I sent for them after I found the two of you,” Ron said, laughing. “You are going to get quite the lecture when we get back to The Burrow.”

Ron seemed entirely too cheerful about the idea. Harry scowled at him.

“Don’t look at me like it’s my fault,” Ron said. “You two didn’t even bother to wait for me.”

“Lucky you,” Harry said.

Mr. Weasley smiled faintly. “Well, boys, we all over-indulge on occasion. I’m concerned, George, that your occasions appear to be happening rather frequently,” he said pointedly.

Harry was immensely glad Mr. Weasley wasn’t looking at him the same way he was looking at George.

For his part, George stared at the table. “I know,” he mumbled. “I tell myself that every morning, just by the evening, it sometimes slips my mind.”

“Perhaps we should work on that together, then,” Mr. Weasley said mildly.

“Yes, Dad,” George said.

“Why don’t you go and get dressed, George. Ron, Harry, the girls are heading over to the Grangers’ again today, and they’d like for you to join them there,” Mr. Weasley said.

All Harry wanted to do was go back to bed. His face must have paled for Mr. Weasley said, “Perhaps after a bit more of a lie in, eh?”

Harry nodded gratefully.

“I’m going to go have a shower,” Ron said, leaving Harry at the table alone with Mr. Weasley.

The older man stared at him worriedly.

“I’m curious if this is the first time you’ve been truly hammered,” Mr. Weasley said, taking a sip of his coffee.

“Yes, sir. Last time, too,” Harry said miserably.

Mr. Weasley laughed. “I highly doubt that, but it’s a lesson in learning your limits. I enjoy a glass of fire whiskey myself on occasion. Any more than two, however, has its consequences.”

“Yes, sir,” Harry said.

“It’s okay for a celebration or to let off steam with your mates, but you don’t want to learn to depend on it as a way to escape your troubles,” Mr. Weasley said.

Harry suspected Mr. Weasley somehow knew the alcohol had suppressed Harry’s nightmares. He looked up quickly.

“It’s a bandage, not a cure, son,” Mr. Weasley said.

“Yes, sir,” Harry whispered.

“I spoke to Kingsley yesterday,” Mr. Weasley said, changing the subject. “He asked me to let you know the Dursleys’ house has been swept, and it’s ready for their return. He said you could swing by and take a look before they do, if you’re so inclined.”

Harry nodded slowly. Did he want to go back to Privet Drive, even if the Dursleys wouldn’t be there? He didn’t think he did, but he supposed he should check it out just so Aunt Petunia wouldn’t take out any fault on whoever delivered her home.

Some of Harry’s feelings must have showed on his face, for Mr. Weasley said, “I’ve relayed the information, and I understand it’s your decision, but I hope you understand that you don’t have to go back. I’m certain the job the Ministry did was more than adequate. They were abusive, Harry. You don’t owe them anything.”

Harry’s eyes shot up, startled. He was surprised by the quiet anger in Mr. Weasley’s usually controlled voice.

“I wasn’t abused,” he scoffed, shocked Mr. Weasley would think so.

Mr. Weasley raised his eyebrows. “So, if Andromeda Tonks was to treat Teddy the way the Dursleys treated you, it would be okay, then?”

This upset Harry, and his stomach turned uncomfortably. Sure, they might have taken an occasional swing or denied him food for a few days, but he wasn’t abused.

The thought that Teddy was being treated that way bothered him greatly, however. Is that what Mr. Weasley suspected Andromeda was doing? His chest constricted tightly, making it difficult to breathe. Harry stumbled to his feet and lurched toward the door. Mr. Weasley followed, grasping Harry’s arm.

“Harry,” he said.

“Let me go. I need to check on Teddy,” Harry said desperately.

“Harry,” Mr. Weasley said more firmly. Harry forced himself to raise his eyes and meet the man’s intense gaze.

“I don’t think Andromeda is hurting Teddy in any way. I think she adores her grandson,” Mr. Weasley said. “But the fact you feel this concerned that she might treat him the way the Dursleys treated you must tell you something.”

Harry swallowed heavily. Mr. Weasley was just trying to confuse him. It was too much for his muddled mind to follow right now. He reached his fingers under his glasses to press against his eyes. He could feel his headache returning.

“The way they treated you was never okay,” Mr. Weasley said softly.

Harry nodded jerkily, unsure where to look. He was very tired and swayed on his feet slightly.

“Why don’t you go back and have a kip? I’ll have Ron wake you when he’s ready to go to the Grangers,” Mr. Weasley said kindly.

Harry nodded and, keeping his head down, walked back to the bedroom in which he slept, firmly closing the door behind him.

*****

Hermione and Ginny arrived at the Granger house right after lunch. They had spent a good deal of time here yesterday, packing up some of Hermione’s parents’ belongings. Hermione put everything in boxes that she planned to store in her little beaded handbag. She reckoned she could restore everything when she went back to visit later in the summer.

Cleaning the house was depressing, but she also found it cathartic. Hermione always enjoyed an organization project, and this is how she looked at it. Today she planned on sorting out her own bedroom. Most of her things were going into another box that she would store at Grimmauld Place until she decided what she was going to do.

“Pig’s here,” Ginny said, startling Hermione.

She looked up to see Ron’s small owl fluttering erratically outside the window. She walked over and lifted it up, allowing the excitable bit of fluff inside. Pig swooped around her head several times, apparently ecstatic to deliver his letter. Hermione quickly took it from Pig’s leg, glancing at the hastily scrawled note.

“Ron and Harry are back at The Burrow. Harry wanted to change his clothes before they came here,” Hermione said.

Ginny grinned ruefully. “I wonder how he’s feeling this morning.”

“Likely terrible, and it serves him right,” Hermione said, frowning. “He should know better than to let himself get so inebriated.”

“You sound like Percy,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes.

“I do not,” Hermione said, stung.

Ginny raised her eyebrows without speaking.

“Do I?” Hermione squeaked.

“Yeah, you do. It was probably George’s idea, but I think Harry needed to let loose. Didn’t you three drink at all while you were hunting Horcruxes?” Ginny asked.

Hermione shook her head. “We were more concerned with finding food than alcohol.”

“So has Harry never been pissed before?” Ginny asked.

“I don’t think any of us have. Why, have you?” Hermione asked curiously.

Ginny dodged the question. “Ron definitely has. He went out with the twi- with the twins once last summer before you arrived. They said it was his initiation.”

“He did? He didn’t tell me about that,” Hermione said thoughtfully.

“So you never have?” Ginny asked. “You’re of age in both the Wizarding and Muggle worlds.”

“Well, I did have too much wine when we were in Australia,” Hermione admitted, color flooding her cheeks.

Ginny noticed immediately. She grabbed Hermione by the hand and sat her on the bed, plopping down next to her. “Ooh! Do tell.”

“There’s not much to tell. For some reason, I became obsessed with hearing all the sordid details about Ron’s relationship with Lavender.”

Ginny stared at her nonplussed.

“Huh?”

Hermione cringed. “It was awful, and now I can’t get what I know out of my head. I was just so focused on the idea of deserving to know, that I never considered if I wanted to know.”

“What do you know?” Ginny asked, her eyes widening.

“Oh, not that,” Hermione squeaked. “They didn’t, but I know more information than I want to know, and it’s driving me mad.”

“Well, that’s clear as mud,” Ginny said. “I don’t think I’d want any details about what Harry did with Cho, though.”

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous. There’s nothing to know. A soggy snog session about covers it,” Hermione snapped. “He’s probably more curious about you. Don’t tell him anything, though. It’s not a good feeling to know and compare.”

“There really isn’t much to tell aside from more snogging. Besides, we did a fair amount of snogging ourselves back at Hogwarts,” Ginny said wistfully.

Hermione smiled knowingly. “He missed you, too. He used to watch you on the Marauder’s Map, you know.”

Ginny paused, staring at her for a moment. “How do you mean?” she asked.

“When we were in the tent. He didn’t think we knew, but Ron and I both saw him following your little dot around. It was sweet in a sad sort of way,” Hermione said.

Ginny’s eyes filled, and she began to blink quickly.

“So what about you?” Hermione asked. “Don’t think I didn’t notice you dodging the question. Have you been pissed before?”

Ginny shrugged. “Yeah. Hogwarts was really hard last year. We’d smuggle in alcohol from the Hog’s Head, and it helped us escape for a little while.”

Hermione looked stricken. “I’m sorry, Ginny.”

“Don’t be. There’s nothing for it. We kept it away from the younger kids, but the rest of us imbibed when we could,” Ginny said.

The familiar sounds of Apparition interrupted them.

“We’re upstairs,” Hermione called.

Footsteps pounded up the stairs before Ron and Harry appeared in her doorway. Harry looked rather pale, but his eyes were clear.

“All right, Harry?” Ginny asked, grinning.

Harry blushed. “Been better,” he said.

Ginny moved toward him and pecked him on the cheek. Harry’s arm snaked around her waist, pulling her closer.

“So what are we doing?” Ron asked, looking around Hermione’s bedroom curiously.

Hermione suspected Ginny would appreciate a few minutes alone with Harry to discuss what had happened last night. She doubted Ron would catch on to that fact, however.

“Ginny, why don’t you and Harry go down and check the rooms we worked on yesterday. Just see that we didn’t miss anything. Ron, would you mind helping me in here?” Hermione asked.

Ron smiled happily. “Okay.”

Ginny grinned appreciatively at Hermione before taking Harry’s hand and leading him back downstairs.

“I want to put everything in this box, so just shrink the desk, the dresser, and the bed for me. I’ll do my bookcase,” Hermione said.

Ron nodded and set to work.

“How did everything go last night?” Hermione asked. “Did either of them give you any trouble?”

“Nah, both of them slept right through the night. Harry threw his guts up this morning, though,” Ron said.

“Did he?” Hermione asked, feeling guilty for thinking he deserved it earlier.

“Yeah, he was a mess before George gave him a Hangover Potion. Even I felt bad for him. Well, a little bit bad. Except for the puking, it was kind of funny,” Ron said, smirking. “He wanted to put George under the Cruciatus.”

Hermione giggled. “I bet he did. George had a Hangover Potion?”

“Yeah. He said he made it himself.”

“Hmm. I’m not surprised,” Hermione said tentatively. “I think George has been drinking a lot.”

“Dad said as much,” Ron replied easily.

“Your dad?” Hermione asked, startled.

“Uh-huh. He came over this morning to tell us that you and Ginny would be here. He called George out on how much he’s been drinking. George should heed the warning,” Ron said.

“Oh,” Hermione said, surprised. She hadn’t thought Mr. or Mrs. Weasley had noticed. She should have known better. Not much got past them.

“What else d’you want in here?” Ron asked, nodding toward the box.

“All that’s left is my clothes in the closet. Can you start putting them in the case, then shrink that, as well? I’m going to see how Harry and Ginny are coming along.”

“All right,” Ron said amiably.

Hermione hurried downstairs. She didn’t find the missing duo in either of the first two rooms she checked, but when she poked her head in the lounge, she found them fully engaged in a snogging session on the settee. Hermione quickly turned around, clearing her throat. Neither of them heard her the first time so she had to clear it again. She could feel the heat on her face.

“Sorry,” she said when she heard movement behind her.

“Hermione!” Ginny yelped. “Er… sorry. The rooms are all clear.”

“Ron and I are finished clearing my room, and I thought I’d start on my parents’. Can you two do the guest room? Same thing we did yesterday,” she asked, keeping her back to them.

“Okay,” Ginny replied, starting to giggle. “You can turn around, Hermione.”

Hermione slowly turned to face them, thankful to see that Harry’s face was even redder than her own felt.

The three of them headed back upstairs, Hermione glanced sadly at the family pictures on the wall.

“Are your parents going to start using their real names or continue going by Wilkins?” Ginny asked curiously.

“I don’t know,” Hermione said, stumped. “I never asked.”

“It must be strange for them. It’s as if they have two lives now. Another whole person living inside their head,” Ginny said. “That has to be so weird.”

Harry stumbled on the stairs, falling to his knees.

“Harry,” Ginny yelped, reaching for him.

Hermione noticed his hands were shaking badly. She glanced at his face and saw he’d lost all his color. His eyes were glassy as he stared ahead vacantly. He was having another one of those flashbacks.

“Harry,” Ginny said again, her voice panicking slightly.

Ron poked his head out of Hermione’s bedroom.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

Hermione didn’t answer him. Instead, she began snapping her fingers in front of Harry’s face while Ginny shook him roughly.

“Harry!” Ron said loudly once he’d caught on to what was happening. His voice jarred Harry out of it.

“What?” he asked weakly. He was sweating profusely, and Hermione could see his entire body trembling.

“Look, you’ve had a rough enough day as it is,” Hermione said gently. “Why don’t we go back to The Burrow and have a quiet afternoon? I can finish up here tomorrow.”

“Perhaps a nice game of Exploding Snap,” Ginny suggested.

Harry nodded numbly as the four trekked back downstairs.

*****

Ginny turned her head to and fro, absorbing the overwhelming sameness of all the Muggle houses surrounding her. She couldn’t believe Harry had grown up in a place as boring as this. They’d Apparated to the back garden of the house of his neighbor, Mrs. Figg, and were currently walking the short distance to Privet Drive.

While at Hermione’s house yesterday, Harry had told her he needed to check that the house was ready for the Dursleys’ return, and Ginny immediately volunteered to accompany him. Most of her family had been here last year when they’d collected Harry, but her mum had refused to allow her to come since she was underage. Ginny really hated being underage.

She hadn’t been able to decipher the emotion in Harry’s eyes when she said she wanted to come along. It was either gratitude or trepidation, perhaps a little of both. He hadn’t declined her offer, however, so here she was. Ron and Hermione had gone back to the Grangers’ house earlier in the day to finish up there, and they hadn’t returned before Harry had Side-Along Apparated her here.

He’d been extremely pensive for most of the afternoon. She wished he would open up to her, so she’d know what he was thinking. She settled for casting furtive glances his way every few steps. She noticed his hands had grown sweaty as they walked, and the tension radiated from him. She might not know much about the Muggles he’d lived with, but she did know that this wasn’t how going home was supposed to feel.

“All right, Harry?” she asked tentatively.

He nodded, his eyes darting as if looking for hidden threats. She imagined he was used to being on constant guard when he was here in summers past.

She didn’t think he was really all right, but she didn’t press. Her immense curiosity was keeping her mind fully occupied.

Mrs. Figg had been pleasant. She’d come outside to greet them and asked them to come in for tea, but Harry declined. Ginny noticed that one of the many cats in Mrs. Figg’s garden was still following them. She could see its tail dart in and out of the bushes every now and again.

When they reached a cross street, Harry turned right. She could see the words ‘Privet Drive’ painted on the sign. It looked identical to Magnolia Crescent. The late afternoon sun shone directly into Ginny’s eyes, and she was pleased when they stopped after only a short walk.

Harry stood on the pavement staring at the visage of number four. The house looked deserted, as she knew it was. The car in the driveway was gleaming as if it had just been shined. The garden looked a bit overgrown, but not outrageously so. She suspected the Ministry clean-up team had done some work outside the house, as well.

“Aunt Petunia won’t be happy,” Harry said at last, his voice very low.

“Why not?” Ginny asked, craning her neck to see what she missed.

“Gardening was always my job. There are too many weeds,” he replied.

“Well, they haven’t been here for a year. She can’t expect it to be immaculate,” Ginny said reasonably.

Harry snorted, but Ginny didn’t think it sounded like a happy snort. He was acting very peculiar. They walked up the front pavement and paused at the front door.

Harry took a deep breath as if steeling himself. “Kingsley said he’d leave the front door unlocked for me, but we have to remember to lock it when we leave,” Harry said. “Aunt Petunia will still have her keys.”

“Don’t you have a key?” Ginny asked.

“No,” Harry said shortly.

He turned the knob and pushed the front door open wide, allowing her to enter first. He closed the door behind them while Ginny took her first look around. The house was spotlessly clean for having been empty for a year. Ginny had trouble even detecting a dust mote in the waning sunshine streaming in the front windows. The furniture was stiff and formal and looked very uninviting. The walls were adorned with a vast number of photographs of a very large boy at various stages of life. Ginny assumed it was Harry’s cousin. The pictures didn’t move at all, and Ginny thought they made the large boy in the center appear stuffed. Harry wasn’t in a single photograph. There was no record of his childhood. It was as if he’d never lived here at all.

Harry only gave the room a cursory glance before moving ahead to the next room. As the door opened, Ginny glimpsed what she thought to be the kitchen. Frowning, she took one last look at the lounge before following him. The kitchen was a bright, gleaming white and just as spotless as the lounge before it. Ginny thought it looked disturbingly sterile.

“The Ministry certainly did a thorough job,” she said, uncertain why she was whispering.

“No, this is how it always is,” Harry said, turning and leaving the kitchen.

He walked all the way to the front door before turning to the left and bounding up the stairs two at a time. Ginny quickly followed in his wake. There were five doors on the landing, the first of which was covered in a series of locks and deadbolts and had an odd little opening on the bottom.

Harry walked by that door and began examining all the others one by one. Although fascinated by the preponderance of Muggle things, Ginny was more riveted by Harry’s behavior. He was angry. He didn’t say anything, but she could see it in his rigid posture, and the way he clenched his hands.

He was doing his utmost to contain an inner fury that seemed to be growing the longer they stayed.

Ginny knew he hadn’t been happy here. She knew the Muggles treated him poorly, but she’d honestly never known Harry to act like this, not even during the frequent outbursts of his fifth year. Everything about this place was just wrong, and Ginny felt her ire rising. It was a good thing the Muggles weren’t here, because Ginny really didn’t think she could refrain from Hexing them. Ministry be damned.

After Harry had checked all the other rooms, he brushed past her as he started down the stairs.

“Aren’t you going to check this one?” she asked, indicating the one with all the locks behind her. She was more than a little curious, and slightly fearful, to see what needed to be locked in so tightly.

Harry paused on the stairs, tensing. “It’s my room. I don’t care what they do to it,” he said tersely, never turning around. He quickly thundered down the stairs.

Ginny looked at the door, running her hands all over the locks. His room?

She stared for a moment, wondering how often he’d been locked inside. She felt her blood begin to boil. She turned the knob with some trepidation and pushed the door open. The room was tellingly barren. A dilapidated single bed was pushed in the corner next to a desk that appeared in only marginally better shape. An old wardrobe with one door hanging crookedly, and some shelves with an abundance of broken Muggle things took up the other wall.

Ginny had no idea why he kept so many broken things. Perhaps he enjoyed tinkering with them. That was what her father liked to do. The room had absolutely no trace of Harry in it except for one faded Gryffindor rosette hanging from a small cork board on the unbroken wardrobe door.

Ginny’s throat ached as she walked across the bare wood floor and pulled the rosette off the board. She tucked it in her pocket. It didn’t belong in this horrid Muggle room. Harry hadn’t, either.

A loud bang and the shattering of glass on the ground level startled her. She turned quickly as she heard the noise again, along with Harry’s voice swearing repeatedly. Ginny hurried down the stairs, wand drawn.

She found Harry in the entranceway chucking a variety of Muggle artefacts at the now broken door of a cupboard under the stairs. Ginny hadn’t even noticed the cupboard there on her first pass, but knew she would have if the door had been smashed that way. Harry grabbed whatever trinkets he could find off a small table in the corner of the entranceway, including several pictures of his heavy cousin, and continued to hurl them inside the cupboard. The floor was littered with debris from his rampage.

“Harry!” she shouted, startled, but he didn’t appear to hear her. He was lost in whatever was going on in his head.

When the table in the entry was empty, he picked it up as well and flung it at the cupboard door.

“Harry, stop,” Ginny yelled, alarmed to see that tears were rolling down his face. What on earth was happening to him?

Harry’s knees buckled as he crumpled to the ground, half inside the cupboard. He buried his face in his hands beneath his glasses as his shoulder began to shake.

Ginny hurried toward him, kneeling on top of all the smashed ceramic pieces and putting her arms around him. She’d known something inside him had been unravelling slowly since the battle. He’d been stoic through all the funerals, and she felt shocked that he’d finally come undone.

Harry gasped, struggling to control his tears. “I’m back to crying in the cupboard again,” he muttered with disgust, although Ginny didn’t think he was actually speaking to her. “Better not let the Dursleys see, or they’ll use it against me.”

Ginny felt helpless. “Is this where you’d like to hide?” she asked gently, desperately seeking a way to comfort him. Perhaps he’d sought refuge here as a child?

Harry began to laugh bitterly, and it sounded unhinged. It gave Ginny chills.

“I lived in this ruddy cupboard for ten years,” he said, his voice very tight. “Ten fucking years!”

Ginny’s heart stopped. She looked around the small, cramped space in disbelief. No. How could this be? Hadn’t anyone from the Wizarding world ever checked on him?

“They always used to call me a freak. I never realized how right they were,” Harry said, shuddering.

“You’re not a freak, Harry,” Ginny said indignantly, growing ever more furious with his relatives. It didn’t matter that they weren’t here; she’d hunt them down.

“I am! They were right. They were right all along, and I never knew,” he cried. “I never knew how right they were, but they must have sensed it right from the start.”

Harry’s shoulders shook as he wrapped his arms around himself, hanging his head in misery.

“Of course you’re not a freak, Harry. They never should have said any such thing,” Ginny said, trying to pull him back into her embrace. “Some terrible things have happened to you, but that makes you a survivor, not a freak.”

He refused to move. He was lost in himself somewhere.

“You don’t understand. You don’t know the whole story. I left that bit out. I left it out when I told Kingsley, too,” he gasped. “I don’t want it to be true.”

A chill ran up her spine, knowing this was the missing piece she’d been waiting for. Now she dreaded the answer, but instinctively knew he needed to get it out. “Left what out?” she asked warily.

“The other Horcrux,” he gasped, his voice somewhat muffled through his tears. “There was a seventh one. Voldemort didn’t even realize he’d made it.”

Ginny felt as if she was wading through muck and couldn’t see her way clear. “I’m not following you,” she said desperately.

Harry barked that unhinged laugh again, making Ginny’s skin crawl.

“I was following Dumbledore’s plan, but he didn’t tell me whole plan. He never told me the whole plan. I saw it in Snape’s memory,” Harry said brokenly.

“Saw what?” she asked, barely able to breathe.

Harry swallowed audibly. “When Voldemort killed my parents, his soul was already unstable. Another piece broke off when he killed my mother and attached itself to the only living thing left in that room. Me. It was me, Ginny. I was the Seventh Horcrux.”

Ginny felt as if she’d been struck in the gut.

“How can that be?” she asked, terrified.

“Professor Dumbledore knew I had to die all along,” Harry said, sounding incredibly vulnerable. “He also knew that if Voldemort was the one to kill me, there was a chance the blood we shared, blood he took in the graveyard, would tether me to him. He was right. I came back. I came back, but Dumbledore didn’t know it would work until it did.”

Ginny’s thoughts reeled. This is why Harry sacrificed himself before the snake was dead. This is why he entrusted Ron, Hermione and Neville to finish the job. There had been no choice. He had to die for Voldemort to be defeated.

He’d walked knowingly to his own death.

Oh, Harry.

Unaware of Ginny’s inner turmoil, Harry ploughed on with his story. For all his stalling, he appeared unable to stop now.

“He lived inside me since I was a year old. I don’t even know what part of me is wholly me. I can’t stand it. I feel tainted somehow. How much of me is me?” he moaned, brushing at his arms as if to get something off of him. “I keep wanting to have a shower to get rid of the stain, but it won’t clean away.”

“He didn’t taint you, Harry. He couldn’t. Remember how he couldn’t stand to be inside a mind filled with so much love when he possessed you at Ministry?” she asked. She knew she had to stop this train of thought right now before he let it consume him. She hoped it wasn’t already too late.

Harry shook his head. “You know how the locket affected us. I told you how it affected all of us. How can you be certain that piece of him that lived inside me hasn’t affected everything about me?” he asked desperately, tears flowing freely down his pale face. “People died, Ginny. They kept dying because of me, dying for me. I could never understand why. What if it was him? What if it was the piece of him in me making them somehow?”

“It wasn’t,” Ginny said firmly. She couldn’t let him keep going down this path. How could he not see how much he was loved?

“How do you know that?” he snarled, burrowing his head in his arms.

Ginny reached down, took him by the chin and forced him to look into her eyes.

“Because anyone who died for you died because they loved you. It was love, Harry, which is much stronger than hate. I would die for you now in an instant if it came to it, and he’s got nothing to do with it,” she said earnestly.

Harry flinched violently. “Don’t say that!” he shouted, nearly crazed. “I don’t want anyone else to die. I never did! How do you know it wasn’t him controlling me?”

“Because you’re stronger than him. You always have been,” Ginny said firmly, brushing away her own tears. “He fled from your mind in the Ministry. You beat him, Harry. Don’t let him win now. If he was controlling you, you never would’ve sacrificed yourself so the rest of us could live. Only a heart full of love could’ve done that.”

Harry’s sobbing slowed as he listened to her. He nodded slowly, leaning into her at last. She wrapped her arms around him tightly, resting her chin on top of his head.

“I don’t like this feeling,” he said, his voice very low. “I don’t know how to get rid of it. I just feel so… so… so—”

“Violated,” Ginny said quietly, understanding him completely.

He pulled his head back and stared at her, stunned. His lower lip trembled as he nodded slowly, appearing so vulnerable her heart ached.

“I know. I felt that way too, after the Chamber, and I only had him with me for a brief time. I didn’t know what was happening to me until after it was over. I don’t know if I could do what you did,” Ginny said, her insides cold at imagining his lonely walk into the forest.

“You already did,” Harry said suddenly, wiping his nose. “You threw the diary away. Then when you realized I had it, you took it back. You tried to save me at the expense of yourself.”

Ginny smiled tremulously. “See, that’s you. Despite all the turmoil you’re feeling right now, you just tried to make me feel better. That’s you, Harry. That’s always been you, and Tom had nothing to do with it,” she said firmly, taking him back in her arms.

Harry began to cry again, softly this time and not the desperate, all-consuming grief he’d started with. Somehow, Ginny suspected these were healing tears, and she just held on and let him cry. Her throat ached as her eyes roamed over the cramped, dusty cupboard. There were a few small, broken toys on one shelf tucked in the corner beneath some spider webs. The true, terrible misery of what had happened here pressed down upon her.

She felt rather stunned to look up through her own tears and realize Ron and Hermione were standing in the open front doorway. It was dark outside, and the streetlamps had come on. She wasn’t sure when they had arrived or how much they’d heard, but their pale faces and grief-stricken expressions let her know they’d been there for some of it.

It was okay, though. They all loved Harry, and she knew they’d all be there to help him heal. The more support he had, the better it would be. She’d need them to get Harry back to The Burrow. He wasn’t in any condition to Apparate. The mess on the floor would stay. Ginny wasn’t about to do anything for Harry’s Aunt Petunia.

She could start cleaning up her own messes.

She rocked Harry slowly as they sat on the floor of this miserable cupboard, letting him weep away some of the misery he’d carried for so desperately long.


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