|SIYE Time:22:11 on 18th November 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: 86612; Chapter Total: 3727
Awards: View Trophy Room
The H/G scene written specially for Danielle, who always enjoys the romance.
Many thanks to all of you who took the time to review last chapter. I thought it fitting that Harry finally have his breakdown in that cupboard. One astute reviewer noted that at this point, Harry has spent more of his life IN that cupboard than out of it. That hurts!
Life Goes On
Ginny sat at the well-worn kitchen table of The Burrow with Ron and Hermione. Feeling drained, they were all nursing hot chocolates after their return from Privet Drive. Harry had been very subdued and had quickly gone up to bed, claiming fatigue. He was simply overwrought, and Ginny had suggested he use some of the Dreamless Sleep Potion the healer had given him. She hoped he had.
Ron looked pensive. He stirred his hot chocolate rapidly, causing most of it to spill over the sides. Hermione was pale, and she kept casting furtive glances at Ginny. Ginny knew the bright witch was holding back her questions, and she appreciated it. She didn’t know if she had the energy to talk anymore tonight.
Except there were a few things she had to know for certain.
“How much do you know about his life at the Dursleys?” Ginny asked bluntly.
Hermione narrowed her eyes. “Why?” she asked.
“Harry made a few comments that I found curious. What do you know about them?” she repeated, frowning.
“Well, they’re horrible. You’ve seen his uncle, and the way he talks to Harry. And we’ve had to send him extra food for years since they never fed him much,” Hermione said. “Sometimes I think he downplays how little food they gave him.”
“Have you been talking to Dad? Ron asked suddenly.
“Pardon?” Ginny asked.
“Did Dad ask you to talk about this with us?” Ron asked.
“No,” Ginny said slowly. “Why would you think that?”
Ron’s ears turned very red, and his brow furrowed as he stared at her. Ginny suspected he was trying to decide whether or not to share something with her, but she thought the indecision made him look rather constipated. Keeping her in the dark wasn’t helping Harry. Nothing they’d been doing was helping Harry.
After a moment, Ron seemed to come to a decision. He took a deep breath.
“I heard Dad talking to Harry yesterday at George’s flat,” he said. “He called the Dursleys abusive.”
“You didn’t tell me that,” Hermione said, slamming her cup onto the table in surprise. “How did Harry take it? He usually changes the subject.”
“That’s hard to do with Dad when he wants information,” Ginny said.
“Harry denied it immediately, but…” Ron shifted uncomfortably.
“But what?” Hermione asked.
“But when Dad asked if it was okay for Andromeda to treat Teddy the way the Dursleys treated him, Harry went dead silent. Then he tried to leave to check on Teddy,” Ron said.
“But… but… they were awful to him, but I don’t think he was abused. We couldn’t have missed that,” Hermione said worriedly. “Could we?”
“Abuse can be more than just physical,” Ginny said quietly.
“We did have to rescue him before second year, and they’d put bars on his window,” Ron said. “Besides, Harry has made numerous comments about ‘knowing when to duck,’ or about ‘staying out of his uncle’s reach’. He always made a joke out of it, though.”
“And the food,” Hermione said, her eyes filling. “It wasn’t normal that they denied him food. I always thought that.”
Ginny swallowed hard and took a deep breath. “What did he tell you about that cupboard where you found us?” Ginny asked.
Ron shrugged. “That’s where his relatives had locked his stuff when Fr— Fred, George and I rescued him,” Ron said. “George knew how to pick the lock to get it out.”
“He never said anything else?” Ginny asked.
“Why? What did he tell you, Ginny? What do you know?” Hermione asked sharply.
“He told me he used to live in that cupboard,” Ginny whispered. It literally hurt to think about it. “For ten years.”
“What?” Hermione shrieked.
“Shhhh,” both Ron and Ginny hissed together.
“Obviously, it was the Horcrux that’s been bothering him,” Ginny said. “But it was that cupboard that started his meltdown, and his bedroom had multiple locks on the door.”
“He has said they used to lock him up,” Ron said, his voice very low. “He was locked in there when we came in second year. We took him out the window.”
“I think you need to talk to your father, Ginny. He obviously knows something. Maybe the cupboard was it, or maybe there was more to it,” Hermione said worriedly.
Ginny nodded. “I suppose you’re right.”
“I’m glad he told you about the Horcrux. I don’t know why he was so hesitant. Obviously it was bothering him more than I realized. It’s gone now though,” Hermione said.
“It’s the fact it was there that bothers him,” Ginny said. “Everyone should be able to feel safe in their own skin, Hermione.”
“But—” Hermione broke off when the kitchen door opened, and Percy stuck his head inside.
He stopped short when he saw all of them huddled in conversation. His eyes darted to each before he turned to leave.
“Percy! It’s all right. Come join us. We’re having some hot chocolate,” Ginny offered.
She saw Ron glance at her curiously, but Ginny avoided his gaze. She knew Percy had been avoiding all of them since his blow up with George the other day. He left a room if there were more than two of them there. Ginny didn’t know how to make things better, but she knew he needed to feel as if he belonged. She might not want to discuss Harry with him, but they could discuss something else.
Percy hesitantly entered the kitchen and took a seat. Hermione poured him a steaming cup of the cocoa.
“Thanks,” he mumbled.
“Did you go into the Ministry today, Percy?” Ginny asked.
“I did,” he nodded. “There was something wonky going on. Lots of activity amongst the Aurors.”
“Any ideas?” Ron asked curiously.
Percy shook his head. “Er… I’m not exactly in the inner circle these days,” he said delicately.
An awkward silence fell across the table.
“Where is everyone tonight?” Ron asked, clearly the most uncomfortable.
“Mum and Dad went for dinner over at Bill’s. I don’t know about Charlie and George. How long have you lot been back?” Percy asked.
“Not long,” Ginny said. “Harry’s already gone up to bed. We wanted chocolate.”
Percy smiled fondly. “You always did have a thing for chocolate.”
Ginny felt her face flush remembering sneaking into Percy’s room to nick his Chocolate Frogs. “You knew it was me?”
“Of course I did,” he said.
“Knew what was you?” Ron asked.
“I used to steal his Chocolate Frogs whenever he left his door open,” Ginny said, grinning at her younger self.
“You used to accuse me of taking them,” Ron shouted.
“That was before I realized it was her,” Percy replied.
“So why didn’t you give her a hard time then?” Ron asked indignantly.
“She was cuter than you were,” Percy replied easily, causing Hermione to giggle.
“What’s so funny?” Ron asked, affronted.
“I never had siblings to steal from. I never really miss it except when I’m around you lot,” Hermione said, sounding a little sad. “It might have been fun.”
“Tell you what, Hermione. I have some Chocolate Frogs hidden in my top dresser drawer. You can nick them when I’m taking a shower tomorrow,” Percy said kindly.
Hermione grinned reluctantly while Ginny couldn’t contain a giggle.
“Hope you give her what for if she does,” Ron grumbled, causing both Hermione and Ginny to laugh. Even Percy joined in.
“Do you know what’s been happening at Hogwarts, Percy?” Hermione asked.
“I know there have been reconstruction crews out there continuously. They’re making some progress, but it’s slow. Professor McGonagall still wants Hogwarts to open on September first. They are going to continue the review sessions at the Ministry until the exams at the end of June. OWLs and NEWTs won’t be given until July, so the students in those years get some extra time. I saw your friend Neville there today.”
“How is Neville?” Ron asked.
“He looked good. Much better than the last time I saw him, anyway,” Percy said, his voice fading.
The last time any of them had seen Neville was at the Battle of Hogwarts. An awkward silence descended once again.
The kitchen door banged open, and a weary-looking Charlie came inside, stopping short at the sight of all them. “Did I miss an owl about a family meeting?” he asked.
“Just satisfying our chocolate cravings. Want some?” Ginny asked, holding up an extra mug.
Charlie nodded. He reached on top of one of the cupboards over the counter and pulled down a bottle of fire whiskey, adding a generous slosh to his cup of cocoa. He held up the bottle to the others. Ron grabbed it quickly.
“How did you know that was there?” he asked, adding some to his cup, although not as much as Charlie had.
Charlie shrugged. “Dad always keeps it there. You knew that, didn’t you, Perce?”
Percy nodded, adding a splash to his own mug.
“No one told me,” Ron shouted indignantly.
“And it’s too high for me to reach,” Ginny said, feeling put out. She took the bottle and added some to her own chocolate before any of them could say otherwise. She handed the bottle to Hermione who looked at it warily.
“I don’t know,” she said.
“Just use less than the wine,” Ron said with a smirk, and Ginny couldn’t control a giggle.
“It’s not like you’re even of age yet,” Percy replied to Ginny’s earlier complaint.
“Yeah, Ginny. Once you’re seventeen you can just hover it down. Then your height, or lack thereof, won’t matter,” Ron said, chuckling.
Ginny scowled. “It’s not like they told you, either,” she said snidely, causing Ron to frown.
“Where’s George? Didn’t he come back with you?” Percy asked.
“No. He’s staying at the shop tonight. A bunch of his friends showed up, and they’re all working on the place. He’s hoping to have his grand re-opening on June first,” Charlie replied.
“That soon? Really?” Hermione asked. She hesitated for a minute before adding, “How did he seem?”
“I think he’s doing better. The past couple days he’s been much more focused. I know Dad went to talk to him after he and Harry tied one on the other night. Whatever Dad said must have worked, because George appears to have his arse in line,” Charlie said.
“D’you know which friends stopped by to help him?” Ginny asked.
“His friend Lee, Alicia from the shop, and a couple other girls. One was tall, pretty girl. I think he called her Ang,” Charlie said. “Why?”
“Angelina and Katie,” Ron said.
Ginny nodded. “Good. They’ll help keep him in line. I know they’re all missing Fred, too, and he’d been avoiding them.”
“They were all on the Gryffindor Quidditch team together,” Hermione explained to Charlie.
“Where’s Harry? You should tell him to join them,” Charlie said.
“He’s already gone to bed,” Ginny said quickly.
“Besides, I don’t think he’s forgiven George for getting him pissed the other night,” Ron said, sniggering.
Percy raised his eyebrows.
“He’s hacked off, eh?” Charlie asked, grinning.
“Hacked off? He wanted to put him under the Cruciatus,” Ron said, laughing.
Ginny smiled, remembering how drunk Harry had been.
“Leave it to our brother to turn the Boy-Who-Lived into a Nutter,” Ron said.
All the Weasleys began to chuckle. Hermione, who had looked very disapproving, eventually joined in herself.
Harry had taken a Dreamless Sleep Potion the previous evening, so he awoke slightly disoriented in the morning. The potion worked wonders, but it left him rather slow and sluggish upon awakening. Squinting, he looked over at the small clock on Ron’s dresser and was startled to see it read 10:00. He rarely enjoyed such a late lie in. Ron’s bed was already empty, and he was eternally grateful to be alone.
He knew Ron and Hermione had appeared on Privet Drive last night. He didn’t know when they’d arrived, or if Ginny had somehow contacted them for help getting him home. Parts of the evening were a blur. One thing he did know, however, was that he’d completely gone to pieces in front of Ginny.
He felt color suffusing his face, and he groaned as he pulled the covers back over his head, mortified. He wondered what she thought about that. Merlin, he’d told her about the cupboard, something he’d worked to conceal for his entire life. Mr. Weasley’s talk the other day had been playing in his mind, and when he stood staring at that dim little hole, he’d just lost it. At least he’d finally told Ginny the whole story about what went on during the battle. She knew about the Horcrux now, and she hadn’t been revolted. She’d been incredibly decent about the whole thing, actually.
He’d have to talk to her, but he didn’t want to face her — or anyone — just yet. He could almost feel Voldemort’s long, white fingers reaching out from the grave to try and suffocate him, but he wasn’t going to let it happen. The Horcrux was gone. Perhaps telling her about it had released him somehow. He felt as if he’d finally expelled some of the poison Voldemort had left behind.
He felt… lighter than he had in days. Well, except for the embarrassment.
He wished he could’ve explained it all without the crying. He hoped Ron and Hermione hadn’t been there for that, at least.
He really didn’t want to get out of bed. He rolled onto his side away from the door and shut his eyes, considering trying to fall back asleep for a while longer. He heard the door creak open and stayed still, hoping whoever it was would believe he was still asleep.
The soft tread of footsteps across the floor let him know someone was approaching, and he tried not to react. Ron’s bright orange walls glowed through his eyelids.
“Good morning, Harry,” Ginny said, sitting down on the camp bed beside him.
He should have known he couldn’t fool her.
Reluctantly rolling over, he looked up to face her. “Morning.”
“Are you planning on coming down, or are you going to hide up here all day?” she asked gently.
“I’m not hiding,” he mumbled.
Ginny smiled sadly and brushed a stray lock of hair off his forehead. “Okay.”
He looked up and caught her eye, relieved to find acceptance there. “Sorry,” he said softly.
Ginny continued to play with his hair. He found it soothing, and he leaned his head into her fingers.
“What are you sorry about?” she asked.
He shrugged. “You know. Yesterday. I didn’t mean for it all to come out that way. I know I should’ve told you… it was just hard.”
“I can believe that, but I’m glad you told me. It’s too much to keep all bottled up. We need to work on that,” she said, nudging his shoulder.
Harry smiled faintly. “How much did Ron and Hermione hear?”
“I don’t really know. I didn’t see them come in. You don’t need to worry about it though. They care about you, and they’ll always be there for you the way you are for them.”
Harry shifted uncomfortably. He knew that, but he still hoped they hadn’t been there for long.
“Harry, did your uncle ever hit you?” she asked abruptly, her eyes boring into him.
“What?” he asked, his eyes opening wide. He reached for his glasses on the bedside table.
“I’m worried about what happened to you at that house,” she said.
“I’m fine, Ginny. Your dad asked me about this the other day, and it was on my mind. It’s over. I don’t live there anymore, so there’s nothing to worry about,” he said firmly.
Ginny pursed her lips. “Just like the Horcrux is gone, but it was still upsetting you. Isn’t it possible your past is, as well?”
“No,” Harry insisted.
“You said they locked you in that cupboard,” Ginny fearlessly persisted.
“Look, they might have knocked me around a bit or withheld food, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle,” he said, rattled.
Ginny bit her lip, looking down. “I’m sorry, Harry.”
“Don’t be, just forget about it,” Harry pleaded.
“I wish I could, but I think you have a lot more scars than just the ones we can see,” she said sadly.
Harry shrugged, feeling extremely uncomfortable. Why wouldn’t she just let it go?
“I do appreciate your telling me about the last Horcrux. I had a nightmare, picturing you having to walk into the forest alone,” Ginny whispered.
Harry pulled himself to a sitting position and rested his back against the wall. He lifted his arm so Ginny could slide under, resting her head on his shoulder.
“I wasn’t really alone,” he said.
Ginny looked up questioningly.
“D’you remember when Dumbledore left me that Snitch in his will?” he asked.
“The Resurrection Stone was hidden inside. I used it on the walk,” he said, his throat growing tight. “My parents, Sirius and Remus all walked with me.”
“What?” Ginny gasped, clutching his hand. “Oh, Harry.”
Harry swallowed heavily. “It helped. It was the first time I’d ever really seen them. I had memories from the Dementors, but this was seeing them. And I got to talk to Sirius.”
Ginny squeezed his hand. “What did he say?”
“He said it wouldn’t hurt. It’d be easier than falling asleep,” Harry whispered. “D’you know what was the last thing I thought about when I was waiting for him to cast the curse?”
“What?” Ginny asked, sounding timid.
“You. I thought about that blazing look you give me sometimes. It was the last thing I wanted to remember,” he said.
Ginny twisted forcefully, grabbing Harry’s head in her hands as she began kissing him fiercely. Harry wrapped his arms around her, all thoughts of cupboards and Horcruxes quickly fading as he gave in to the delicious tingling spreading throughout his body. This is what he needed, what he craved.
He lost all track of time and space as they continued to shower kisses upon each other. She felt so right in his arms, fit so perfectly in his embrace that he willed time to stop. He could kiss her for days.
Ginny’s hands moved from his face up to his hair, clutching stray wisps in her fists as she continued to hold his head in place.
He pressed his hand into her back, holding her firmly as their kisses intensified. He felt dizzy, as if the room were spinning, and she was the only thing holding him centered. Ginny moaned softly as he ran his other hand up her side, nearly driving him mad.
He felt his body respond to her, but he didn’t pull away, instead pressing himself firmly against her, causing Ginny to gasp. Tensing, she pulled back, her hair tousled and her lips swollen from kissing. She let go of his hair, her wide brown eyes looked questioning into his, desire mixed with a trace of fear.
Panting, he took a deep breath, trying to control his raging hormones. He never wanted her to be afraid of him, so he needed to slow this down. He gently pulled her closer to his chest, trailing soft kisses down her neck and across her throat. He felt her body relax as he continued his ministrations. He could wait forever for her, despite the fact his own body was insisting it didn’t want to.
Her lips were so soft, so gentle, as he found her mouth again. She kissed him eagerly, unrelentingly, and he complied willingly to her demands.
Ginny’s soft sighs were nearly causing him to come undone. It was Mrs. Weasley’s voice on the stairwell that sent an icy tendril of fear stabbing into Harry’s heart.
“Ginny. Are you up there?” Mrs. Weasley called.
Eyes wide, Harry and Ginny just stared at one another, panicked, for a moment suspended in time. Both of them were disheveled, but Harry’s prominent pajama bottoms proved a more pressing problem. He stared at Ginny helplessly and was rather shocked when she began to giggle. He could find nothing amusing in this situation.
Merlin, he hoped Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t come up here. He’d never be able to look her in the face again.
“I’ll go head her off,” Ginny said, taking pity. She began straightening her hair and clothing as best she could. “You just go hop in the shower, and meet me in the kitchen.
“Coming, Mum,” Ginny called as she hurried down the stairs.
Harry collapsed back onto his bed, willing both his body and his breathing to settle down. He was in Ron’s bedroom, for pity’s sake. Anyone could’ve just walked in here. Something about kissing Ginny made him lose all sense of self-preservation. Despite nearly getting caught, the snogging had been amazing.
Harry got up and gathered his things, quickly heading toward the shower before any other Weasley decided to make an inopportune appearance.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny, a cheerful sort of day that suited the grand re-opening of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Ron and all his siblings, along with Harry and Hermione, planned to be there to cut the ribbon. Ginny and Hermione had been making flyers all week.
George had moved back into his flat above the shop, and his friend Lee Jordan had moved in with him. Ron’s mother had tried everything to get him to stay, but it was finally his dad who insisted it was time to let George try his solo wings. Mum had been tearful, but she’d agreed.
The Burrow was hustling with activity this morning as everyone tried to get ready to go to the shop. Harry had beaten Ron to the shower, leaving Ron feeling rather peeved. Harry had distracted him with news about the Chudley Cannons’ training camp, and when Ron looked down to see the article, Harry had sneaked past him into the shower.
He and Harry had been over to Grimmauld Place a few times to work on cleaning up their rooms. Ron had taken Regulus’ old room, while Harry took the master bedroom. Ron had the feeling Harry didn’t want to sleep in Sirius’ room. He still kept the door shut, and hadn’t changed anything in there. Hermione had sent her parents’ personal belongings on to them, then stored her own things in one of the empty bedrooms at Grimmauld Place. Since she was planning on staying at the Burrow for the rest of the summer, she wasn’t in a huge hurry.
Ron’s door opened and a towel-clad Harry entered, grinning widely. “Bathroom is free,” he said cheekily.
“Funny, Potter,” Ron said, scowling as he collected his things.
As Harry began to rub his bruise ointment onto his chest, Ron noticed that it finally looked as if it had begun to heal. “That looks better,” he said, surprised.
Harry glanced down. “Yeah, I noticed it a few days ago. Purple instead of black.”
“That’s good though, innit? ‘Course you can see that scar more easily, too,” Ron said, nodding toward the bolt-shaped mark. “That stuff must be working.”
Harry nodded pensively. “Yeah.”
Ron might not always catch subtleties, but he knew Harry well enough to know when he was overthinking something. Harry ran his hand along the back of his neck. Yep, a sure sign something was bothering him.
“What’s going on, Harry?” Ron asked.
Harry shrugged, looking toward the closed door. Using his wand, he quickly cast a Muffliato spell.
“I don’t want you to say anything to the girls,” Harry said, twisting his lips to the side.
Ron didn’t like the sound of that, but he nodded anyway. Harry was his best mate, and Ron would do just about anything for him.
“That healer who gave this to me… she said the bruise might be lingering because… well, she thought some things were bothering me,” Harry said uncomfortably.
“Bothering you,” Ron repeated slowly, trying to follow Harry’s logic but not grasping it. “What?”
Harry sighed. “She thought the bruise might not be healing because I need to talk about the war,” he mumbled.
“Oh,” Ron said, out of his depth. He shifted from foot to foot. “Well, what do you want to talk about?” He knew Harry had some heavy issues in his past, some that were just coming to light. He didn’t really know if he was the one who could help, but if he was who Harry wanted, well… he’d do his best to be there.
Harry rolled his eyes. “I’m not talking about sharing with you, Ron.”
“Oh,” Ron said, relieved despite himself. “Then what are you saying?”
“It’s just… after Ginny and I discussed some things at Privet Drive, I noticed it start to heal,” Harry said, awkwardly.
Ron remembered being floored by Harry’s meltdown that day, but they’d never discussed it. Harry made it very clear he didn’t want to talk about it, and Ron respected that. He wouldn’t want Harry to bring up when Ron lost it over Fred at the funeral, either.
“Well, that’s good then, right? I mean… you and Ginny are supposed to be there for each other,” Ron said. He didn’t want to know any details about what his sister and best mate did together, but he couldn’t deny they seemed happy in each other’s company — and Harry had shared more with Ginny already than he’d ever done with Ron and Hermione..
“Yeah, I suppose. It’s just weird,” Harry said.
“What is?” Ron asked.
“Just… I dunno. Here at The Burrow, you all just blurt out whatever you’re thinking all the time. Everyone always knows when someone else is upset, and they know exactly why. It’s odd, but odd in a good way. I reckon it’s just not what I’m used to,” Harry said, struggling to find the right words. “Never mind. Go have your shower. We can’t be late or George will have our heads.”
Ron took a deep breath. He hadn’t brought this up with Harry at all, but if Harry was giving him an opening, Ron was charging in. “I don’t think it’s all that odd, mate. It’s what families do. I think it’s those Muggles you had to live with who were barmy.”
Harry snorted. “Too right.”
After they’d showered and changed, the boys met the rest of the Weasleys in the kitchen. Ginny used the Floo while the rest of them Apparated since the Anti-Apparition wards at the shop had been taken down. Ron’s senses were overwhelmed as soon as he appeared inside the back of the shop. Agape, he looked around to see the changes that had been made. The shelves were all filled to the brim with various products in all shapes and colors. Small versions of fireworks exploded at the top of the magically expanded ceiling. Thick, golden drapes outlined each window, and if you watched closely, small, slimy-looking hands would occasionally reach out to tap any passers-by.
The floor was covered in a lush, purple carpet that made Ron feel as if he were walking on cushioning.
“Do you like the carpet, Ron?” Alicia Spinnet asked, grinning widely.
“Alicia,” Harry said, sounding pleased.
Alicia reached over and greeted them both with hugs. Hermione and Ginny walked over to join them. Alicia wore the magenta staff robes, and her hair was pulled up on top of her head. Ron had always thought she was rather plain, and he was surprised by how much she’d changed.
“You look great,” Ron blurted, and he knew the tone of surprise was evident in his voice when Hermione elbowed him sharply in the ribs.
“Thanks, Ron,” Alicia said, amused. “So, I saw you staring at my carpet. Do you like it?”
“Your carpet?” Ginny asked.
“Alicia’s invention, all her own,” George said, appearing behind them. “Self-cleaning with a built-in cushioning charm. Designed to make it feel as if you’re walking on air.”
Hermione’s eyebrows raised. “Self-cleaning? That’s impressive.”
“Watch,” George said delightedly. He poured a box of a powdery substance all over the floor. “We never had carpet before because there were always too many spills that were easier to sweep up.”
As they watched, a hole appeared in the carpet beneath the mess before it began to sink and regurgitate back over itself, looking clean and good as new.
“Wicked,” Ron said.
“I didn’t know you were inventing, too,” Harry said, looking impressed.
“This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done on my own, but I’m helping George with some of the products the shop already stocks,” Alicia said happily.
“And looking pretty as a picture doing it,” Lee Jordan grinned, coming up behind Alicia and kissing her on the neck.
“Hi, Lee,” the Gryffindors all chorused.
“You lot get on with the pleasantries. Bill and Charlie are working the till and I have to make certain to keep Fleur away. When I had her up there earlier, customers queued up, but ended up leaving without paying because they were so overwhelmed by her,” George said, shaking his head.
Ron could see his parents walking around the shop hand-in-hand while Percy and Fleur were assisting customers on the floor.
“How have you been, Lee?” Hermione asked.
“Things are good. After PotterWatch ended, the Wizarding Wireless offered me a job. I’m developing a new show that should debut in the autumn,” Lee said eagerly.
“You know what you should look into?” Ron asked. “Muggle telly. I watched some sort of sports match on the Muggle telly. They broadcast the whole match, with moving picture and all. It was brilliant.”
“It was a rugby match,” Hermione said, exasperated.
“If you could find a way to invent something like that for Quidditch, you’d make a mint,” Ron said enthusiastically.
Lee and Alicia looked at one another speculatively. “My mum has a telly,” Alicia said. “We should stop in for a visit and take a look.”
Ron thought Lee grimaced slightly, but he agreed nonetheless.
“Hey, you lot. Did you come to help or spend your time lollygagging?” George shouted good-naturedly.
The group broke apart and spread out across the shop. By the afternoon, Ron was sweating, and his stomach rumbled painfully. It had been hours since he’d had anything to eat. He knew his mum had brought a picnic basket, but so far no one had mentioned it.
Already he’d busted three different little thieves trying to pocket various items. One of them had stomped on Ron’s foot before doing a runner. Ron was decidedly cranky. When he spotted his Mum adding some new stock to one of the shelves, he made a beeline towards her.
“Mum, are we going to have lunch soon?” he asked pleadingly.
“Hello, Ron. Yes I’m having a good day. How are you?” his Mum asked sarcastically.
Ron’s ears reddened as he dropped his eyes.
His mum patted his arm fondly. “I suppose growing boys need their food. Why don’t you take Harry in the back for a lunch break? We’ll take it in shifts.”
Ron didn’t have to be told twice. “Come on, Harry,” he said, grabbing his mate’s arm and dragging him toward the back where the picnic basket was located.
“What are you on about?” Harry asked, stumbling over the boxes he was putting on display.
“Lunch,” Ron said simply.
He found the basket and stuffed half a sandwich in his mouth in one bite. His stomach growled happily. Harry had stopped at a window and was staring outside intently. Taking his sandwich with him, Ron walked over to peer outside.
“What’s up?” he asked.
Harry nodded across the road. “Feels kind of like déjà vu, yeah?” he asked.
The streets were bustling and full, the windows of shops all gaily decorated. It was the familiar shock of blonde hair that caught Ron’s attention. Draco Malfoy was leaning in an alley, watching the comings and goings at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes with narrowed eyes.
“You think he’s up to something?” Ron asked.
“One way to find out,” Harry said, grinning. His bright green eyes sparkled with a hint of mischief that Ron hadn’t seen in a long time. “Let’s go.”
Before Ron could agree or decline, Harry had slipped out a door and was striding across the street. Ron saw Malfoy’s head lift as his eyes followed Harry’s progress. Ron was out the door in a snap. No way was Harry going near him alone. The last time they’d seen Malfoy, he’d tried to hand Harry over to the invading Death Eaters.
Ron caught up to Harry just as they reached Malfoy, who took a few steps back into the alley. It was secluded and away from the traffic on the main road. Ron thought it felt ominous. He drew his wand and took a step closer to protect Harry’s back.
“Malfoy,” Harry said tightly.
“Potter,” Malfoy drawled. “And Weasley, of course.”
Ron wanted to wipe that smirk off Malfoy’s face. He always managed to get under Ron’s skin. He’d promised Hermione he’d work on controlling his temper, so he took a deep breath, determined to be civil.
“What are you doing here?” Harry asked aggressively.
Ron glanced over to see a tic working in Harry’s jaw.
“Relax, Potter. The war is over, and people are moving on — it’s not all about you anymore,” Malfoy said, sneering.
“So you just happen to be hanging outside George’s shop because you’re in need of some joke products?” Harry asked sarcastically.
“I wanted to talk to you,” Malfoy said.
“And you just knew if you hung outside glaring long enough, I’d have to come see what you wanted?” Harry asked.
“I didn’t know you felt that way about me, Potter,” Draco smirked.
“Even if I did swing that way, Malfoy, you still wouldn’t be my type. I was never attracted to spineless losers,” Harry replied.
Ron grinned as Malfoy’s face colored.
“Look, I came here to warn you,” Malfoy said, shifting uncomfortably. “If you don’t want the warning, I’ll just be going.”
Harry rolled his eyes, but Ron asked, “Warn him about what?”
“My father is being sent back to Azkaban to complete his sentence. Some of his old mates have been making some promises if he gives them aid,” Malfoy said evasively.
“The Death Eaters have been in touch with your father? Rodolphus Lestrange is your uncle, isn’t he?” Harry demanded.
Malfoy’s eyes widened. “If the Ministry were willing to make some sort of deal, my father might be willing to accommodate them,” he said without answering the question.
“So why come to me?” Harry asked. “Why not go to the Minister?”
“Because what the Death Eaters want is you,” Malfoy spat.
“What are you on about?” Ron demanded while Harry remained impassive.
“They’re determined to get you, Potter, despite all the security measures you’ve taken. They’ve only frustrated them and made them more determined. They will succeed eventually,” Malfoy said casually.
Before Ron could answer, Harry brushed it off. “Think so, do you? If Voldemort couldn’t manage it, what makes you think your lot can?”
Draco flushed as he clenched his teeth. “You may be full of your own press clippings, but I’ve never been impressed. If it weren’t for my mother, you’d be lying dead and forgotten in the forest with worms feasting on your rotting remains.”
“And you’d be jumping in line to lick Voldemort’s boots when he demanded it — if he hadn’t killed you for your ineptitude already,” Harry snarled
Draco took a step forward. “Why you…”
“Yeah, you want a go at me? Go on, draw your wand. I’d love an excuse to finally have it out once and for all,” Harry said, his hands shaking. Ron was surprised to see Harry losing his cool. He looked as if he wanted nothing more than to beat the living crap out of Malfoy. The blonde boy appeared to know it and quickly turned to leave.
“Don’t turn your back on me,” Harry snarled, grabbing Malfoy’s shoulder and spinning him around so he roughly slammed into the brick wall.
“Harry,” Ron said, pulling him back.
Harry jerked his arm from Ron’s grasp.
“Just watch yourself, Potter,” Draco snapped, rubbing his shoulder while quickly scurrying down the alley and out of sight.
Harry glared at Ron. “What did you do that for?”
“What was that all about?” Ron hissed, again grasping Harry’s arm and dragging him back towards the shop.
“Don’t you find it an incredible coincidence that he turns up just to deliver a warning about the Death Eaters we’ve been looking for?” Harry asked, pacing.
“You think Malfoy’s involved with them?” Ron asked, crossing his arms over his chest. “He seemed happy to be well shod of them after the Battle.”
“I think he’s too much of a coward to be involved, but he knows something,” Harry said. “And maybe I could have learned what it was if you hadn’t interfered.”
“Yeah… well… you threw me. I fly off the handle, remember? I fly off the handle, and you’re supposed to be the calm one. I don’t like it when you switch roles on me. I get all confused,” Ron said, waving his hand in the air.
Harry shook his head. “No matter what Malfoy says, I’m not going back to living that way again. It’s over.”
Ron wasn’t certain which of them Harry was trying to convince. They walked back into the shop where Ron’s dad was waiting for them.
“Dad!” Ron said, surprised.
“All right, boys?” his dad asked, his blue eyes raking over both of them.
“We’re fine, Mr. Weasley,” Harry said. “We ran into a classmate.”
“Yes, I saw,” Mr. Weasley said, glancing back at the window he’d been staring through. “Be careful, Harry. We’ve reports that some of the missing Death Eaters have been looking to make contact with the Malfoys.”
“Yeah, that’s basically what Malfoy just told us,” Ron said, nodding.
“How did you know that?” Harry asked sharply.
Mr. Weasley sighed. “We caught that Death Eater that Auror Proudfoot has been tracking, Doogin MacCullity. He’s been rather tight-lipped, but he did share that tidbit.”
“So that’s what the ruckus at the Ministry was all about the other day?” Harry asked. “I heard about it.”
“Albus always said you had a way of knowing what was happening,” Ron’s dad said, amused. “You need to be careful, Harry. Your name keeps coming up.”
“What else is new?” Harry grumbled, rolling his eyes. “Malfoy said his father might be willing to cut a deal. He’s been in contact with Rodolphus Lestrange.”
Ron watched his dad’s eyes widen. “I’ll be certain to let Kingsley know.”
Ron felt chilled. He thought he’d have the job of watching Harry’s back for the rest of his life. He didn’t mind, really, but he wished his friend could catch a break for once.
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