|SIYE Time:2:20 on 25th September 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: 84986; Chapter Total: 3552
Awards: View Trophy Room
Well, did you see that one coming? I didnít even know this was thing until recently, but Iím enamored of it. For those of you who donít like it, itís a two-chapter story arc only, however it will have some further-reaching repercussions later in the story.
As always, Iím eager to hear what you think!
Righting Some Wrongs
Ginny and Hermione took the tube to Grimmauld Place after finishing their lunch. They’d had a wonderful time, and Ginny was feeling light-hearted, even as the familiar, gloomy faÁade of Number Twelve appeared before her.
She and Hermione had gone to a restaurant Hermione was familiar with. The food had been good, but the atmosphere was what Ginny loved. She enjoyed pretending she was a Muggle and had only messed up once when she’d exclaimed over the Muggle money. Hermione had shushed her before she’d made too much of a scene.
Both girls were dressed up, and Ginny enjoyed noticing the glances both of them had received on the train. Since they were already in London, they’d decided to go right to Grimmauld Place. Neither was dressed for housecleaning, but after the reactions of the blokes on the train, Ginny was eager to see Harry’s response to her outfit.
She’d worn her best skirt. It was light grey and pleated, and it flared out when she spun. Her mum had found it in the village near The Burrow and had splurged to cheer Ginny up during the war. Hermione had let her borrow an aqua blouse with embroidery around the neckline. Ginny had never owned anything so delicate.
Hermione wore a white blouse that showed off her tanned skin, and a pretty lilac skirt that flounced when she walked. Ginny’s mother had taken their picture before they’d left for their lunch.
As the two hurried up the stairs, the clicking of their heels on the brick blended in with the chirping of birds on the green area across the street. Before they reached the top step, however, Ron materialized in front of them. Ginny and Hermione ploughed into him.
“Oof,” Ginny said, getting trapped between the other two and losing her breath.
“Where have you two been?” Ron shouted.
Ginny and Hermione looked at each other in confusion.
“I’ve been at The Burrow waiting for you for an hour. Mum said you went to lunch in Muggle London. How are we supposed to know how to find you in Muggle London? Anything could’ve happened,” Ron said, his ears scarlet.
Hermione stepped past him and opened the front door, ushering them both inside. “Stop shouting, Ron,” she said. “We’re fine.”
“Obviously. But we had no way of knowing that,” Ron said angrily.
“Don’t be a prat, Ron,” Ginny said. “We went out to lunch. Mum knew that, it just ran longer than we’d expected. We had fun.”
Ron looked as if he was about to strangle her before Hermione stepped between the two. “I’m sorry you were worried, Ron. I should have expected you’d be waiting on us. We’re fine. Nothing out of the ordinary happened,” Hermione said in a very even voice.
Ron still looked agitated, but he was calming down. The two of them were staring at one another with distinctly sappy expressions. Ginny had had enough. She knew Ron was coping with the effects of the war by keeping tabs on everyone at all times, but she didn’t want to stand here and watch Hermione calm him down.
“I’m going to see what Harry’s been doing,” she said.
Neither of them seemed to hear her. Ginny checked the kitchen first, but finding it empty, she went up to the sitting room. She knew this was the next room Harry was planning to clean. The sitting room, however, was as empty as the kitchen. In fact, it didn’t look as if anything had been done at all.
“Harry,” she called, but was met with silence.
The hairs on Ginny’s arm stood on end. Something wasn’t right. She ran up to the master bedroom and poked her head inside, but it was also empty. She began going from door to door, checking each of the many rooms, but there was no sign of Harry.
He’d said he was going to be here this afternoon. Perhaps he’d been delayed at the Ministry. She took the stairs up to the landing where Ron’s bedroom was located, but his room was also empty. She opened the door to Sirius’s room and glanced around. Nothing had been disturbed in this room, either.
She was about to leave when she heard the distinct sound of a sniffle.
Cautiously, she tiptoed into the room, peering around the bed. On the floor were Harry’s shoes, jeans, and a little further away lay a pair of underpants. Ginny stood, staring slack-jawed for a moment before she heard the sniffle again. It was coming from under the bed.
The legs on one side of the bed were broken, and it was barely off the floor. There was no way Harry could fit under there, and why would he?
“Harry?” she called warily.
The sniffling sound stopped abruptly.
“Harry, if you’re under there, this isn’t funny,” Ginny said. If he was having her on, he was going to experience her Bat Bogey Hex first-hand.
She watched the bed carefully, ready to flee at any moment. Something was wrong. Looking carefully at Harry’s discarded jeans, she could see his wand in the back pocket where he stored it. Harry would never voluntarily leave his wand behind.
“Come out of there right now,” she said firmly, holding her own wand on whatever came out from under the bed.
Ginny nearly fainted when a small, black-haired child scooted out. He stood before her wearing an extremely large T-shirt than hung on him like a dress. He kept his head down, and Ginny could see he was trembling.
She put her wand away and knelt before the little boy. “Hey, it’s okay. How did you get in here?” she asked.
The boy shrugged his shoulders but didn’t look up.
“Do you know what happened in here?” she asked. She had to find Harry, and this boy must know something. Where had he come from?
The boy shook his head, still staring at his feet.
“Do you know where Harry went?” she asked.
This caused him to look up, startled, and Ginny nearly fell over.
“I’m Harry,” he said.
Ginny stared into very familiar bright-green eyes beneath a mop of messy black hair. She could see his scar beneath his fringe, and it looked enormous on his small head. His eyes were watery and red-rimmed, and he couldn’t be more than three years old.
Ginny’s heart leapt into her throat.
“Ron! Hermione! Get up here now,” she shouted, her voice wobbly.
Her shout startled the child, and he backed away from her, looking around wildly, seeking an escape.
“Sorry. Sorry, it’s okay,” she said, holding out a shaky hand toward the trembling child. “I’m Ginny. Do you remember me?”
Harry shook his head, his lower lip sticking out. “I don’t know how I got here. My aunt is going to be really cross. She doesn’t like when strange things happen to me.”
Ginny put a hand to her head, feeling faint.
She heard the sound of stampeding footsteps on the stairs. Harry took several more steps back towards the wall. He kept his back against it, staring with trepidation at the door.
Ron and Hermione burst into the room, both of them pulling up short the way Ginny had done only moments before.
“Bloody hell,” Ron said, staring slack-jawed at the miniscule Harry.
“Oh, my,” Hermione said, raising her hand to her chest. “What happened?”
Ginny shook her head. “Your guess is as good as mine. He was like this when I found him hiding under the bed.”
For his part, Harry was staring at all of them warily, hands behind his back yet tense enough she was certain he’d take flight should any of them move. She realized they were scaring him, and that wasn’t fair. He looked so tiny.
“How old are you, Harry?” she asked kindly, trying to draw him out. If they were ever going to work out how this happened so they could undo it, they had to gain his trust.
“Four,” he answered promptly.
He looked up to them for a moment, then began to look sheepish. He twisted his lips as if he had more to say. She watched him, perplexed over what was troubling him. He apparently thought she was suspicious because he kicked at the ground and conceded, “Almost.”
“Bloody hell,” Ron said again.
“What’s that powdery substance all over the drapes?” Hermione asked, squinting toward the window. She’d been scouring the room since first seeing little Harry.
Ron took a step towards it before Hermione grabbed his arm and pulled him back. “Don’t touch anything until we get our dragon-hide gloves,” she hissed. “We don’t know what caused this.”
Ginny inhaled sharply. “I thought the Ministry cleared out all traces of Dark magic.”
“They did, but I think this might have been done by a potion. That powder could be a potion residue, and potions won’t register as Dark magic. Remember, Professor Snape told us potions were the most dangerous weapon because they were so easy to conceal.”
“There’s no such thing as magic,” Harry said forcefully, frowning at all of them. “Where’s Aunt Petunia?”
“He doesn’t remember us?” Hermione asked her, sounding slightly panicked.
“Not at all,” Ginny replied, feeling panicked herself. “What do we do?”
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Ginny,” Ron said. “We’ll contact Kingsley. Someone at the Ministry must have some knowledge about potions.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down,” Ginny said, firing up at once. “I’m allowed to be frazzled. My boyfriend is a toddler!”
“Yes, well,” Hermione said, taking a deep breath. “I think we need to get Harry back to The Burrow first. We don’t know if anything else is in here, and this house is dangerous enough as it is for a child. Your mum can watch him while we come back with some dragon-hide gloves and some flasks to collect the powder.” Hermione sounded as if she was on the verge of hysteria.
“You lot are going to get me in so much trouble,” Harry said worriedly.
“You’re not in any trouble, Harry,” Hermione said. “Your aunt and uncle had to take a trip, remember? They left you with Mrs. Figg. I’m her niece, Hermione, and these are my friends, Ron and Ginny.”
Harry eyed her suspiciously. “Where’s Mrs. Figg then?” he asked.
“She wasn’t feeling well, so she asked me to keep an eye on you,” Hermione said, inventing wildly. “That’s all right, isn’t it?”
Harry appeared to accept that. He nodded, then asked, “Where are my clothes?”
Ginny realized the dress he was wearing was actually the T-shirt that fit Harry’s seventeen-year-old body.
“We’ll get them for you in a minute,” Hermione said.
She turned to Ginny. “Keep him here, I’ll be right back,” she said before hurrying out the door.
“Where are you going?” Ron asked, sounding forlorn.
He’d yet to say a word to Harry, and he looked panicked about being left nearly alone with him.
“Relax, Ron,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes. “He’s still Harry, just a younger version of himself.”
“This is not normal,” Ron said, staring at Harry with a baffled expression.
Harry’s lower lip began to stick out again.
“Don’t worry about him, Harry. He’s just being silly. We’re going to go to my mum’s house, and she might make us some pudding. What’s your favorite?” Ginny asked, pretending to consider. “I bet you like treacle tart.”
Harry just stared at her, his brow furrowing.
“D’you like treacle tart, or would you like something else?” she asked. Perhaps he’d only grown to like that as he got older. “Ice cream, maybe?”
“I can have pudding?” Harry asked, wide-eyed.
“Of course you can. I bet my mum will make anything you ask,” Ginny said.
Harry began to worry his lower lip. “Did Aunt Petunia say I could have pudding?” he asked.
“His aunt didn’t let him have much,” Ron whispered out of the side of his mouth.
Ginny had to tamp down on her anger so she wouldn’t frighten him. “Well, you’re staying with us for a few days, so I won’t tell if you won’t,” she said conspiratorially.
Harry grinned mischievously. “Okay. I like ice cream.”
“With chocolate sauce and sprinkles?” Ron asked, speaking to Harry for the first time. Ginny suspected he wanted this little version of Harry to have everything that had always been denied him. Leave it to Ron to finally warm up to him over food.
Harry nodded eagerly. “When can we get it?”
Ginny’s thoughts turned to another lousy habit of his awful relatives. “Are you hungry, Harry?” she asked.
“I’m very hungry,” he said, and as if to prove it, his belly rumbled.
“Let’s gather this stuff so we’ll be ready to go then,” she said, picking Harry’s clothes up off the floor. As she was bending down, she saw his glasses poking out from under the bed. She picked them up, as well.
“They keep falling off,” Harry said at once, his eyes widening, panicked. His voice rose in pitch. “I didn’t do anything to them. Honest.”
“I believe you, Harry,” she said calmly. “My mum can fix them for you.” She was certain all it would take was a Shrinking Charm, but she still wasn’t allowed to do magic.
She could hear Hermione climbing back up the steps. The bright witch entered the room looking winded, her hair frizzing in every direction. She tossed a pair of dragon hide gloves to Ron, who caught them, staring at her questioningly.
“Here, Harry,” Hermione said, handing him a glass of what looked like pumpkin juice. “I thought you might be thirsty. We just have to do one more thing before we go.”
She handed a flask to Ron and directed him where to scoop up the powder. As they were gathering a sample, Harry drank his juice. Ginny watched in horror as his eyes rolled back in his head, and he crumpled lifelessly to the floor.
“Hermione! What did you give him?” Ginny shouted, managing to grab Harry’s head before it banged into the floor.
Hermione turned from what she was doing to see Ginny cradling a motionless Harry. “It’s just a mild Sleeping Draught. I even cut back the dosage to account for his small size,” She said, her eyes wide. “I didn’t expect it would work that fast.”
“Why did you give him a Sleeping Draught?” Ginny demanded angrily.
“When Harry was really this age, he didn’t know anything about magic. His relatives hated anything remotely associated with it. I thought if we suddenly thrust him into the Floo, it might alarm him rather badly,” Hermione snapped.
Ginny took a deep breath. “You’re right. I’m sorry. Can we get out of here now?” Watching Harry collapse like that had spooked her more than she was willing to admit.
“Yes, I think I’ve got enough of this to test it. Can you take Harry through the Floo?” she asked.
Ginny nodded, clutching the tiny version of Harry to her chest.
“Ron and I will Apparate and meet you there,” Hermione said, taking Ron by the hand.
Ron stared at a motionless Harry. “This is mental,” he said.
“I think it’s some kind of De-Ageing Potion,” Hermione said. “I read about them in one of my texts. Once we work out the ingredients, an antidote shouldn’t be too hard.”
“Why would Death Eaters leave a De-Ageing Potion though? That doesn’t make sense, particularly if it’s easy to counteract,” Ginny said.
Hermione shrugged. “I was wondering that myself,” she admitted.
“Maybe they thought they could catch him when he was small and unaware,” Ron said.
“Maybe,” Hermione answered, but Ginny didn’t think she sounded very confident.
Ginny carried Harry’s limp little body down the stairs and into the basement kitchen. Ron and Hermione followed her.
“We’ll be right behind you,” Hermione said, reaching for the Floo Powder.
Ginny stepped into the fireplace, clutching Harry to her tightly. Hermione tossed the powder and Ginny cried, “The Burrow!”
After what felt like an incredibly long amount of spinning, Ginny stumbled out of the fireplace in the kitchen of The Burrow, and would have sprawled headfirst onto the floor if her father hadn’t caught her.
“All right, ther… What happened?” Her father asked getting a good look at what — or rather who — Ginny was carrying.
“We don’t know exactly,” Ginny replied. “Hermione thinks he stumbled upon a De-Ageing Potion left at Grimmauld Place.”
Her mum turned around from the cooker and gaped at them just as Ron and Hermione burst through the back door.
“We have a sample of what I think is the potion. We need to have it checked,” Hermione said at once.
“What’s wrong with him?” her mother asked, hurrying toward Ginny and taking an unresponsive Harry from her arms.
“I gave him a small dose of a Sleeping Draught, but I think it was too strong,” Hermione said, tearfully.
“A full-strength Sleeping Draught?” her mother asked shrilly.
“In a much smaller dose,” Hermione pleaded.
Her mother shook her head, pulling herself together. “He’ll be all right. He’s just going to sleep for a while. Children can’t handle full-strength doses of potions. Ginny, go up in the attic. Against the back wall are some boxes with children’s clothing. Bring down some pajamas and things that might fit him,” her mother said.
“I’m going to go get Fleur,” her dad said. “She’s the best with potions amongst all of us.” He quickly left through the kitchen door.
Ginny hurried into the attic and had to shoo away the ghoul who was looking for attention. She eventually found the boxes her mother mentioned. She found one with some pajamas and clothes that looked as if they might fit. One box containing some toys caught her eye, and she pulled out an old, stuffed unicorn that had been one of her favorites.
Ginny grinned. Harry would kill her, but it would be worth the laugh. She brought the box of clothes along with the unicorn down into Ron’s bedroom.
Her mother had transfigured some rails along the side of Harry’s camp bed so he wouldn’t roll out during the night. Ginny tucked the unicorn under his little arm. She pulled out the camera that she’d grabbed from her mum’s room and snapped a photo. Her mother looked at her quizzically.
“There were no photographs of him in that Muggle house. They were all of his cousin,” Ginny replied sourly.
Mum’s eyes narrowed dangerously, and she held out her hand for the camera. Ginny handed it over. Harry would have more baby pictures than he knew what to do with now.
“Do you think he’ll sleep right through the night?” she asked. It was barely suppertime.
“I do. He’s very small,” her mother said, tenderly brushing the hair from Harry’s eyes. Ginny was again struck by how the scar covered so much of his forehead.
“He said he was hungry though, and I promised him ice cream,” Ginny said, feeling incredibly unhappy to disappoint him.
“He can have it tomorrow,” her mother said. “Come on downstairs. You’ve all had a shock. Let’s sit down to eat, and you can tell us all about what happened.”
With that, her mother gently, yet firmly, pushed her from the room.
When Hermione opened her eyes, she wasn’t certain what had awoken her. She looked around Ginny’s dark bedroom when, with a start, she remembered the details of the previous day. Blinking the sleep from her eyes, she sat up and could see Ginny’s hair splayed across her pillow. The younger girl was still sleeping soundly. The second thing Hermione realized was that Crookshanks wasn’t curled up at the bottom of her bed. Her beloved cat had barely left her side since she’d returned to The Burrow.
Sliding out of the camp bed and securing her dressing gown, Hermione dashed downstairs. After their hurried return from Grimmauld Place yesterday, she, Ron and Ginny had eaten dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Fleur was working on deciphering what kind of potion Harry had been given. Mr. Weasley planned to go to the Ministry this morning to inform the Minister about what had happened.
When she got to the kitchen, she heard voices. She pushed open the door and found Harry sitting on a stack of pillows in a chair at the head of the table, an enormous feast splayed in front of him, and Crookshanks curled contentedly in his lap. Harry stroked the cat’s fur absently as he nibbled on his toast. His plate looked as if he’d made a good-sized dent in the massive pile of scrambled eggs heaped upon it.
“Good Morning, Hermione,” Mrs. Weasley chirped, sounding happier than Hermione had heard her in a long time. Obviously she was enjoying caring for a little one again. Hermione noticed there was a camera sitting on the counter.
Harry turned to look at her with wide eyes behind his round glasses. Mrs. Weasley must have adjusted them for him. He was wearing toddler pajamas with Quaffles printed all over them.
“Good morning, Harry,” she said, unable to stop herself from ruffling his hair as she moved to a chair.
“Morning, Herminny” he said, struggling with her name. He was still patting Crookshanks who purred loudly.
“It seems Crookshanks is happy you came for a visit,” she said, smiling. She’d give an older Harry a good hex if he tried to dub her with a nickname, but somehow coming from him as a toddler, it was extremely endearing.
“Yeah. Mrs. Figg’s cats like me, too. Did she tell you?” Harry asked.
“She did,” Hermione said solemnly.
Mrs. Weasley looked at them questioningly, but Hermione gave her a slight shake of her head.
Hermione scooped some eggs onto her own plate. She’d just bitten into a slice of toast when the fireplace flared green, and Kingsley Shacklebolt’s head appeared in the flames. “Molly, Arthur,” he called.
Harry yelled in surprise, causing Crookshanks to leap up and jump from his legs before sprinting from the room.
“Minister,” Mrs. Weasley said, torn between him and Harry.
Harry leaped off the back of his chair, toppling it and scattering the pillows. His eyes never left the face in the flames as he backed away. He looked more than just alarmed; he looked terrified.
“It’s all right, Harry,” Hermione said evenly, holding her arms out in front of her to try and calm the frightened child.
Harry was having none of it. He darted past her and tore from the room. Hermione followed him into the sitting room, but he was already on the stairs running back up to Ron’s room. Hermione quickly followed him, hearing his ragged breathing as she gave chase.
When she entered Ron’s room, Ron was still sleeping, and Harry wasn’t in his own bed. She looked around the room, positive he’d come this way.
“Harry?” she called, glancing in all the corners of the room. She found him huddled on the bottom of Ron’s wardrobe, his head buried in his arms. She knelt down to get on his level.
“Come on out of there, Harry,” she said, gently.
He looked up at her, eyes wide, and lower lip starting to tremble. He shook his head. “There’s no such thing as magic,” he said, almost desperately.
Hermione sighed, biting her lip. “It’s all right,” she said soothingly. “Do you know how there are different rules at the Dursleys’ than at Mrs. Figg’s?” she asked, praying it was so.
Harry merely shrugged, but he was watching her carefully, as if looking for any sign of deception.
“Well, the Weasleys like magic tricks. They like them a lot here,” she said.
Harry frowned. “Are you trying to get me in trouble?” he asked, a touch of defiance on his small face.
“Why would I do that?” Hermione asked.
“Dudley does,” Harry said sourly.
“Well, that’s not very nice of Dudley, is it? Magic tricks are all in fun, and no one will get you in trouble here. I promise,” Hermione said solemnly.
She reached out and offered Harry her hand. He stared at it for a moment before reaching out and taking it. Somehow gaining his trust felt like a major accomplishment, and she’d have to remember to guard it carefully.
“What time is it?” Ron’s muffled voice floated across the room.
Turning around, she noticed he still had his face buried in his pillow. Harry ran right over to his bed and put his face next to Ron’s ear.
“It’s morning time, Ron. Get up,” he said, abandoning his fright instantly.
Ron groaned as Harry began to pull on his arm.
“Come on, Ron. Your mum says you have a treehouse, and that you’ll climb it with me. Come on,” Harry said, attempting to forcefully drag Ron from the bed.
“Oh, do get up, Ron. He wants to go in the treehouse,” Hermione said, barely controlling her laughter.
Ron groaned again, but opened one eye to stare at his overly-excited best mate. Hermione wasn’t certain what was going through his head, but he actually sat up and said, “All right. Shower, breakfast, treehouse. In that order.”
“Yes!” Harry said, pumping a fist into the air.
“Come on, Harry. Let’s go finish our breakfast while Ron has a shower,” Hermione, said. She gave Ron a sympathetic glance before following a bounding Harry down the stairs.
Ginny sat at the breakfast table when they arrived, her hair still damp from her own shower. Mrs. Weasley bustled toward Harry, her eyes searching his face for any sign of his former distress.
Hermione intercepted her before she could remind Harry of what he’d seen. “Harry wants to go see the treehouse,” she said firmly. “Ron said he’d take him.”
“Oh, that sounds like fun,” Ginny said.
Harry climbed back onto his chair next to her. “Yeah,” he nodded eagerly. “Dudley didn’t want a treehouse ‘cause he can’t climb trees as good as me.”
“That’s because he’s too fat,” Ginny said nastily.
Harry looked at her, shocked.
“Oops. Did I say that out loud?” Ginny asked blithely.
Harry giggled and took a sip of his juice, inching his chair closer to Ginny’s.
“What happened with the Floo?” Mrs. Weasley asked in a low voice.
Hermione leaned over and whispered, “He doesn’t know about magic, and I don’t think the Dursleys were very keen on it, anyway.”
Mrs. Weasley nodded, scowling fiercely. She returned to the cooker, her back to them, and Hermione noticed her motions had become rather forceful.
Mrs. Weasley definitely didn’t like the Dursleys.
When Ron finally finished his breakfast, they went out to the back garden. Harry spotted the treehouse immediately and sprinted toward it. Ron followed, chasing Harry up the ladder and causing him to squeal in delight. Hermione smiled fondly at their antics. Ginny circled the bottom of the treehouse, shouting up at them to surrender as if she were a pirate. Hermione’s breath caught in her throat when Ron scooped Harry up and the two of them swung down together on the rope swing.
“Again!” Harry shouted before his feet had even touched ground.
The treehouse kept Harry’s interest far longer than it did Hermione’s, but eventually he found a ball, and they began a game of catch in the field. In the middle of their game, Harry stopped suddenly. A peculiar expression crossing his features as he began to dance from foot to foot, growing more and more agitated.
Ron stopped and looked at him curiously for a moment before pointing to the broom shed. “Quick, go behind there.”
“Outside?” Harry squeaked, crossing his legs.
“You’re a wi… a boy, aren’t you?” Ron asked.
Harry’s expression changed from alarm to determination as he sprinted behind the shed.
“He has to pee,” Ron said, shrugging.
Hermione giggled. “How did you know?”
“Recognized the expression,” Ron answered.
“I don’t think his aunt would ever encourage their tool shed for that purpose,” Ginny said, laughing. “Their house looked rather fastidious.”
Ron frowned. “After we rescued him before second year, and he’d been locked in that room for ages, I asked him what happened if he had to go. He just rolled his eyes at me and asked if I was a boy or not. He said he’d just use the window, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.”
“He is resourceful,” Hermione said, sighing unhappily.
“I’ve been thinking about a lot of the comments he’s made over the years since our conversation the other night,” Ron said, shifting uncomfortably. “I don’t think he had much fun being a kid the first time, so if we’ve only got a little while, we can give him some good memories now.”
Hermione’s eyes began to fill as she launched herself at Ron, kissing him soundly. His arms wrapped around her, and he lifted her up on her toes.
“Gross!” Harry said, coming out from behind the shed and witnessing Ron and Hermione’s embrace.
“I agree,” Ginny said, grinning.
Harry looked at Ron as if he’d fallen several rungs on Harry’s hero-meter. “Is she your girlfriend?” he asked, the final word dripping in disgust. Evidently, treehouses were cool, girlfriends were definitely not.
“Yes, she is,” Ron said, beaming at Hermione. Harry pulled a face.
The sky had grown steadily cloudier as the morning wore on, and as they stood there, the first few raindrops began to fall.
“Perhaps we should go in for lunch and see if it passes,” Ginny suggested.
“It’s just a little bit wet. Couldn’t we play a little more?” Harry pleaded, looking as if his heart were about to break.
Before Ginny could concede, as Hermione knew she would, a distant rumble of thunder rolled across the sky.
Harry’s eyes widened in alarm. “Lunch is a good idea. Race you,” he said before sprinting for the door.
“Is Harry afraid of thunder?” Hermione asked.
Ron shrugged. “Not as far as I know, but I never knew him as a squirt, either,” he replied.
The other three followed Harry inside. Hermione was really proud of Ron. He never appeared to enjoy the younger students very much at school. He always seemed more annoyed by them than anything, but he’d really stepped up here with a little Harry.
While they ate their lunch, Fleur stopped by and told them she was brewing the antidote, but it would take two days to complete. She’d started it the night before, so they had about a day and a half left with little Harry.
Harry hadn’t paid too much attention to the new arrival. He was far too intent upon the ice cream Mrs. Weasley had given him for pudding. He sat with Mr. Weasley, adding an impossibly large amount of toppings to his bowl of ice cream. Mr. Weasley kept encouraging him to add a bit more, and they both kept casting guilty looks at Mrs. Weasley.
It was Ron’s question that took Harry by surprise.
“So, what do you want to do before you go back tomorrow, Harry?”
Harry looked up sharply, his face falling. “I have to go back? Already? Why?” he asked, tears filling his eyes. He looked into each of their faces, appearing incredibly betrayed.
“Well, er… ” Ron hesitated, obviously not getting the reaction he’d expected.
“I’ll be good,” Harry pleaded desperately, looking up at Mr. Weasley with brimming eyes. “Can’t I stay just a little bit longer?”
“Of course you can,” Mrs. Weasley said fiercely, glaring as if they all were contradicting her. “You can stay as long as you like, Harry, dear.”
Harry blinked the threatening tears away, holding his breath and looking to Mr. Weasley for confirmation.
Hermione thought Mr. Weasley’s eyes looked rather bright, as well. “You’re not going anywhere, lad. Ron just has his days mixed up. Come on now, your ice cream is melting.”
Harry surprised them all by flinging his arms around Mr. Weasley’s neck and hugging him fiercely. Mr. Weasley wiped his nose with one hand while scooping the small boy onto his lap with the other.
Beaming, Mrs. Weasley pushed the heaping bowl of ice cream in front of the two and kissed Mr. Weasley on the head.
Hermione let go of the breath she’d been holding, locking eyes with Ginny across the table. There was no reason Harry needed to know about the potion returning him to his actual age. He wasn’t even aware anything had happened. She wondered if he’d remember any of this after he’d had the antidote.
After they’d finished their lunch, and the very messy ice cream, the rain was still falling outside and the thunder had grown more intense. Harry kept glancing at the ceiling worriedly. They all adjourned to the sitting room where Ron pulled out the chess board.
“Care for a match, Hermione?” he asked.
Harry watched the pieces move with fascination. He didn’t seem surprised by them at all, and Hermione suspected he thought they were somehow electronic. As the match wore on, Harry sat on the floor beside them playing with the discarded pieces, and completely distracted from the storm overhead.
Ginny got down on the floor with him and joined in his imaginary play. He seemed startled at first, but quickly accepted her, smiling widely and handing her some of her own pieces.
Ron’s chess pieces were indignant at being used in such a childish game. They kept hurling insults, but Harry thought it was funny and insulted them right back. As time wore on, the complaints from the chessmen grew less and less, and Hermione suspected quite a few of them were enjoying the change of pace.
Once the rain had cleared, Ron peered out the window, grinning broadly. He turned to Harry who was still playing his game of pretend with Ginny, and said, “Want to go play in the mud?”
Harry’s head whipped around, his bright green eyes growing into wide saucers. “What?” he asked, sitting bolt upright. The excitement in his rigid little body was palpable, but he was desperately trying to tamp it down to be certain Ron wasn’t having him on.
“There are plenty of boots out back, I think we can find a pair that fit you. Want to go stomp in the mud?” Ron asked.
Harry jumped up and stared directly in Ron’s eyes. “Won’t your mum be cross if we get dirty?” he whispered, half-excited, half-afraid.
Ron shook his head. “No. If we don’t hurry, she might get all the good puddles herself.”
Harry grasped Ron’s hand. “Let’s hurry!”
“I think these should fit you properly,” Mr. Weasley said, entering the sitting room with a small pair of Wellington boots. He tucked his wand back in his pocket, winking at Hermione.
Hermione smiled. He’d obviously been listening and had shrunk a pair to fit Harry.
“Are you coming, too?” Harry asked excitedly.
“Well… ” Mr. Weasley hesitated.
“Come on, Dad,” Ron cajoled. “It’ll be like a trip with a Time-Turner.”
“I’m coming, too,” Ginny said, hopping up. “Hermione?”
Hermione shook her head. “I think I’ll help your mum with dinner,” she said. Hermione really had no desire to stomp in the mud. Besides, she’d been meaning to learn some of the household charms Mrs. Weasley used without thought, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so without an audience.
She watched out the kitchen window as Harry tramped through the many puddles in the back garden. One must have been deeper than he’d expected because his foot got stuck, causing him to go sprawling. His little face splattered with mud, he looked fearfully up at Ron to see his reaction. When Ron merely pointed and started to laugh, a mischievous glint appeared in Harry’s eyes. He scooped up a handful of the mud and launched it at Ron, hitting him squarely in the chest.
Ron’s eyes widened in surprise before he gathered some more mud and began chasing Harry with it. Hermione could hear Harry’s squeals of laughter even through the heavy glass window.
The Floo flared, and George stepped into the kitchen. He looked around searchingly.
“I heard you had a tiny dinner guest,” he said.
Hermione smiled. “He’s out back stomping in the mud with your father and siblings. Your mum brought the camera.”
“Excellent,” George said, brightening. “I think I’ll go out and join them.”
Hermione lost track of time as she helped Mrs. Weasley prepare the meal, but Ron’s mother had better instincts than Hermione. She hurried over to the door and opened it widely, just in time to halt her muddy family from traipsing into the clean kitchen.
“Don’t you dare come inside looking like that,” Mrs. Weasley said, summoning several towels from the linen cabinet. “Here, wipe yourselves down first, and leave the boots on the steps. Hermione, please go upstairs and run a bath.”
Hermione caught a glimpse of a mud-plastered Harry being wrapped in a towel and pulled into Mrs. Weasley’s arms. The rest of the filthy Weasleys were so covered, Hermione could scarcely see a clean bit of skin showing.
She hurried upstairs and began filling the tub with warm water, using her wand to hurry it along. When Mrs. Weasley arrived, she put Harry down on the floor, still wrapped in the now mud-splattered towel.
“But I don’t want a bath,” he whinged, frowning at the tub.
“Well, there’ll be no supper until everyone is cleaned up,” Mrs. Weasley said, smiling at him to soften her words. “Come on now, in you go.”
With the uncensored innocence of a child, Harry stripped off his muddy clothes and climbed bare naked into the tub.
Hermione turned around, her face flaming. Harry was going to hex her when he returned to his actual age.
Mrs. Weasley apparently thought so, too. “Hermione, why don’t you go downstairs and see if any of the others need assistance, dear,” she said.
The Burrow only had the one bathroom, so Hermione suspected the others were managing with Cleaning Charms.
From the corner of her eye as she hurried to leave, she saw Mrs. Weasley kneel beside the tub and pull a toy boat from her apron pocket.
Harry was going to want to Obliviate all of them.
After everyone was clean and fed, the family gathered in the sitting room once again. Percy had come home, and George stayed for dinner. He was trying to work out how he could use a De Ageing Potion in a new line of products.
Mr. Weasley pulled out a copy of Beedle the Bard, and read aloud to them all. Hermione was surprised by how attentively all the Weasleys listened to the children’s stories, but she imagined this was probably a familiar scene from their childhood, and they were all feeling a touch nostalgic.
Harry curled up on the couch, his knees tucked into his chest, and his thumb stuck firmly in his mouth as he drifted off to sleep. It had been a busy day, and even though he fought it valiantly, his droopy eyes had eventually closed. Ginny darted up the stairs and returned with a stuffed unicorn. She placed it under Harry’s arm.
When Mr. Weasley finished reading, the family broke into random conversations around the room. Both Ginny and Hermione pulled out their textbooks, while Ron and Percy began a game of chess.
Hermione sat in the chair next to Mr. Weasley, and she noticed him watching Harry sleep with a very peculiar expression on his face. She thought he looked rather sad. Glancing at the sleeping boy, Hermione couldn’t see anything upsetting. She thought Harry looked rather sweet snuggling Ginny’s unicorn. Even the shuffling of chairs and murmur of voices hadn’t caused him to stir.
“Fred used to do that,” Mr. Weasley said quietly.
“Pardon?” Hermione asked.
“We had a jovial Healer back then. He used to make house calls, and with our brood, he made a journey to The Burrow nearly every week. Fred was our thumb-sucker, and the Healer called him a self-soother. He said the ones who sucked their thumbs were always good at calming themselves down. With two infants in the house, it was perfectly understandable to him that one would learn to self-soothe whilst Molly was tending the other,” Mr. Weasley said, his voice strained.
He had been the one there for everyone else as they all grieved for Fred. This was the first time she’d seen the loss really effecting the Weasley patriarch.
Hermione wanted to offer some comfort, but she felt completely out of her depth without a clue as to what to say. She knew she had to say something, however. She stared at the sleeping child, seeking a solution.
“I can understand how Harry would be a self-soother, too,” she said, realizing it was true. “I’d bet those relatives of his didn’t bother with him much when he was small.”
Mr. Weasley nodded, his eyes still sad. “I don’t suppose they did. It’s extraordinary to me how he turned out so well. He’s a resilient fellow.”
Hermione nodded. “Ron said he wanted to give Harry some fun childhood memories while we had him like this.”
“That’s a wonderful idea. Do you think Harry will be pleased or embarrassed?” Mr. Weasley asked.
“Both. I think he’ll be embarrassed at first. Mortified even, but after he has time to think about it, I think he’ll be pleased,” Hermione said, smiling.
“I saw a bit of mischievousness in him outside that reminded me of the twins when they were that age,” Mr. Weasley said, his mind obviously still on his missing son.
“Was George a thumb-sucker, too?” Hermione asked.
“A bit. Ginny was too, for a short while, but it was Fred who really formed the habit. Molly was beside herself wondering how to break him of it,” Mr. Weasley said, smiling fondly.
“How did she?” Hermione asked.
“She didn’t. One day, Fred just up and stopped. Never started back up again,” Mr. Weasley said.
“Well, once he got an idea in his head, it was hard to convince him otherwise. I remember tearing my hair out when I first became a Prefect, and he wanted to use first-years to test his new products,” Hermione said, nodding vigorously.
“I remember that,” Ginny said, looking up from her Transfiguration book. Hermione hadn’t been aware she’d been listening. “And Ron didn’t help you try and tame them at all.”
Mr. Weasley laughed. “Fred was always hard to control, and Ron never liked being on the receiving end of their pranks.”
“I was thinking him of earlier at supper,” Ginny said. “See that bowl on the edge of the counter?” she asked, pointing toward the kitchen.
Hermione could see dishes washing themselves, and a large blue-painted bowl with a chipped edge beside the sink. “I see it,” Hermione said.
“When I was six, I flung that bowl full of salad at Fred’s head after he teased me about being too small to play Quidditch with the rest of them,” Ginny said, glancing guiltily at her father. “It bounced off his forehead and landed on the table where it cracked. I could never find the missing piece. Mum had me doing chores for the rest of that night, but the startled expression on Fred’s face that my aim had been so perfect was worth it.”
“Are you talking about that blue bowl in the kitchen?” Mrs. Weasley asked, gently laying a light blanket over a sleeping Harry.
“Yeah,” Ginny said. “D’you remember that?”
“How could I forget?” Mrs. Weasley asked. “I had to tend the lump on your brother’s forehead.”
“Yeah,” Ginny said again. She was grinning without remorse.
“I remember when Fred stopped sucking his thumb,” George said quietly, proving he’d been listening, as well. “I told him if he could stop for a whole week, I’d pretend I was him the next time he got in trouble, no matter what he’d done. By the time the week was up, he didn’t want to go back.”
“So, what did he do to get in trouble?” Mr. Weasley asked.
Hermione grinned, noticing it never crossed the older man’s mind that Fred wouldn’t have done something to get in trouble.
George grimaced. “He turned Ron’s teddy bear into a giant spider.”
Ron shuddered. “I could never sleep with that bear again. I liked that bear.”
“Yeah, well. I got a paddling from Mum, and no pudding at supper. And Mum made my favorite that night thinking she was rewarding me for not being involved. But it was Fred who ate it!” George shouted indignantly.
The rest of the Weasleys joined in the laugher. As the evening wore on, they continued to share stories of Fred as they grew up. Although he slept through it, it was actually Harry who had brought about this wonderful, healing evening. Hermione promised herself she’d let him know once he was older.
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