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SIYE Time:22:12 on 18th November 2017


These Cuts I Have
By melindaleo

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Category: Post-DH/AB
Characters:All
Genres: Drama
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 475
Summary: The war has been won, yet the aftershocks continue. The scattered survivors are left to pick up the pieces and find ways to move on. Join the various members of the extended Weasley family as they struggle to rebuild and cope with the consequences. And of course there are still Death Eaters left to find.
Hitcount: Story Total: 86624; Chapter Total: 3575
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
I can’t tell you how delighted I was to the reaction to little Harry! I’ll freely admit – I fell in love with him, too. That’s why one chapter stretched into two, lol. This one got a little more angsty, but I do love my angst, and let’s face it – angst doesn’t even begin to cover Harry’s actual childhood. There is a definitely transition chapter ahead. I hope you enjoy it.




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Chapter Eighteen
Fears



A sharp, piercing scream startled Ron from his slumber. He flailed around, kicking his covers to the floor, as his head whipped to and fro seeking a threat, all while the plaintive screaming continued.

Grey, early morning light peeked in from the curtains, illuminating the ghoul from the attic as it hovered over Harry’s camp bed. Ever since the ghoul had impersonated Ron while he was away on the Horcrux hunt, it had been prone to haunting Ron’s bedroom rather than the attic.

Harry was huddled in the corner of his bed, as far from the ghoul as he could get, with his arms shielding his head. He screamed again, but this only caused the ghoul to moan and attempt to imitate the sound, terrifying the small boy further.

“Hey! Cut it out,” Ron shouted, sitting up.

The ghoul stopped at once, turning toward Ron with baleful eyes.

“Go on, you. Back up to the attic. That’s where your room is,” Ron said, pointing toward the door.

The ghoul shot Ron a withering glare before floating directly upwards and disappearing into the ceiling.

“Harry,” Ron said, kneeling down beside the trembling boy’s bed.

Ron’s bedroom door burst open, and his father used his wand to flood the room with light. His hair was mussed as his eyes scanned the room for any sign of trouble.

“It was the ghoul,” Ron said tiredly.

Harry breathed quickly and erratically. He took great, gulping breaths as he hugged himself tighter, as if trying to disappear.

Ron didn’t know what to do. As long as he’d known Harry, his friend had been stoic, closely guarding his emotions and barely letting anyone through his walls. Sure, he’d cracked on occasion, but he’d always managed to pull himself together with very little aid. He was the hero ¬— invincible, aloof and always in control.

This Harry was vulnerable and unguarded, and Ron was having trouble reckoning the two. His father had no such difficulty. He crossed the room in two strides, reaching down to the camp bed and scooping the terrified toddler into his arms. He cradled him closely to his chest.

Harry stiffened for a moment, but it proved too much for him. The dam burst as he wrapped his little arms around Ron’s father’s neck and sobbed inconsolably.

“Shhh, shh,” Dad whispered. “It’s all right. No one is going to hurt you.” He sat down on the edge of Ron’s bed, still holding the little boy tightly in his arms and rocking back and forth.

Ron remembered being afraid of the ghoul when he was small. Even Fred and George had been intimidated for a time, albeit a shorter period. If it scared them, knowing full well about magic and all its idiosyncrasies, Ron could only imagine how terrified Harry must feel.

“It was hovering over him when I woke up,” Ron said helplessly.

“I— i— it was a ghost,” Harry wailed, pressing his face further into Ron’s dad’s shoulder.

“Shh. It’s all right. I’ve got you now, and I won’t let anything hurt you,” Dad said, pulling the boy closer and stroking his hair.

“It t- t- tried to get me,” Harry cried.

“I know, but it’s gone now. You’re all right,” Dad repeated.

“What happened?” Ron’s mom asked shakily, peering into the room. Her face was pale and gaunt, as if she’d been forcefully reminded of her worst fears.

“The ghoul happened,” Ron said angrily, feeling more and more angry with the creature for upsetting his family. His mum had finally seemed to be pulling herself together. Having Harry here as a child had definitely helped.

“How about a spot of your special tea, Molly dear?” Dad suggested.

Mum nodded and hurried downstairs.

Ron remembered his mum giving whichever one of them was upset some private time where they were allowed to drink a small bit of tea. It had always made them feel very grown up. Now that he was older, he suspected there had been a few drops of a Calming Draught in the tea.

After allowing Harry to catch his breath, Dad stood up, still carrying the little boy as they followed Mum to the kitchen. Ron didn’t think he’d be able to get back to sleep, anyway. They sat at the kitchen table, and Mum placed teacups in front of all of them.

“Here, Harry, have a sip of this special tea, just this one time,” Dad said.

Harry’s curiosity overcame his terror, as he forced himself to turn around and stare at the teacup. Ron could see the damp stain from Harry’s tears all over Dad’s shoulder, but his dad didn’t seem to mind. Keeping one arm firmly around Dad’s neck, Harry reached out with the other and tried a bit of the tea.

Mum always made it really sweet, and Ron could see it working the same magic it always had on him and his siblings. Harry sipped again before snuggling back into Dad’s chest.

“I’m surprised Ginny and Hermione didn’t wake up,” Ron said, swallowing some of his own tea.

“They did. I told them to stay in their room until your father had checked on the problem,” Mum said. “I don’t think Harry needs to be crowded right now.”

“There’s no such thing as ghosts,” Harry said, his voice very small. He tangled his fingers into the collar of Dad’s pajama jacket, and Ron suspected it would take a powerful Hex to make him let go.

Dad sighed. “There are ghosts, Harry, but they won’t hurt you. They just… do their thing. I think the ghoul upstairs was just curious about you, much like you are about him.”

Harry’s brow furrowed. “Aunt Petunia says there’s no such thing.”

“Yes, well… perhaps she’s just never seen one. I don’t think your aunt’s mind would be very open to them, do you?” Dad asked.

Harry considered this for a moment. “So I can see them, and she can’t?” he asked.

Dad smiled faintly “That sounds right to me.”

“Can I see my mummy and daddy then?” Harry asked, his eyes wide, tears still clinging to his lashes.

Mum inhaled sharply, while Dad seemed momentarily flustered. Ron didn’t know where to look. Harry’s life had been so unfair.

“I don’t think you can see them,” Dad said slowly, his voice unsteady, “but I’d bet you’re the only one who can feel them. In here,” he said, pressing on Harry’s chest. “They loved you very much, and that much love leaves a lasting mark.”

“They died in a car crash,” Harry whispered before sticking his thumb in his mouth.

Ron’s parents looked startled, but Ron remembered on the train ride in first year that Harry said that his relatives had told him that story. Hagrid had been the one to tell him the truth.

“But you survived,” Dad said shakily, and Ron suspected it was taking all his restraint not to correct Harry’s impression. “And that was what they wanted more than anything. They loved you very much.”

Harry’s eyes began to droop. Ron didn’t know how he could fall back to sleep. Ron loved to sleep, but he felt as if he’d been hit with an adrenaline rush. The early morning sun was just breaching the trees as Harry’s eyes finally closed. His little fingers loosened their grip on Dad’s pajama jacket, but they never completely let go. Dad didn’t seem to mind.



That afternoon, George visited The Burrow again. He, Ron, Hermione and Ginny took Harry out to the swimming hole, promising Mum that someone would be with him at all times. Ron was certain she’d planted herself in the kitchen window and was watching Harry like a hawk.

Harry had been quiet during the morning. He’d clutched that silly unicorn of Ginny’s and stayed with Ron’s parents more than the others. Hermione told him that it was understandable he was a bit clingy after such a fright, but Ron was baffled. It was so un-Harry-like. Then again, he supposed his best mate had never had anyone to comfort him when he was upset, so perhaps he just didn’t want to let go too quickly.

By the time lunch rolled around, Harry was ready to swim. He’d come racing down the stairs in a pair of yellow swim trunks demanding the others hurry up and get ready. He was so exuberant Ron feared he’d been hit with a Cheering Charm. Ginny discovered that both Mum and Dad had been slipping him sweets all morning, so this was the result of a sugar high.

When they reached the swimming hole, both George and Ron simultaneously tore off their T-shirts and did cannonballs into the water, causing a huge splash. Harry watched them with a big grin but stood further back and eyed the water warily.

Ron and George kept trying to convince him to jump, saying they’d catch him. Ron could see Harry wanted to do it, but something was holding him back. Ginny knelt down next to him and whispered something. He nodded and put his hand in hers as they both walked toward the edge together. She took off Harry’s glasses and laid them on her towel.

“We’re coming in,” Ginny said. She glared at her brothers. “No splashing until he’s ready.”

She sat on the edge and pulled Harry down next to her, letting him put his feet in and feel the temperature of the water first. Hermione joined them on the ledge. She was wearing a blue bathing costume with a bright, tropical flower pattern. Ron’s mouth dropped open.

He’d never seen Hermione like… well, he’d never seen this much of Hermione. His stomach did a funny twist, and the voices of the others dimmed. Hermione looked over at him shyly, and when she saw him staring, she smiled and ducked her head.

“Er, Ron, best close your mouth, or you’ll catch bugs,” George said.

Ron put his hand behind his back and gave his brother a very rude hand gesture.

“Are you coming in the water, Hermione?” George asked, holding out a hand to assist her. Ron didn’t like that.

“She’ll come in when she’s ready, and she doesn’t need you to help her, Ron grumbled.

Hermione laughed, but she took Ron’s hand instead of George’s and slid into the pond. Ginny picked up Harry, and she held him while dipping down to her shoulders and his neck before standing up again.

Harry laughed, but he had his arms so tightly around Ginny’s neck Ron was afraid he’d strangle her.

“Just give him a minute, Ron,” Hermione said in his ear, sending a delicious tingle down his spine. He felt goosebumps break out that had nothing to do with the temperature of the water.

“He’s going to strangle her,” Ron said, torn between wanting to keep an eye on Harry and stare at Hermione.

“I don’t think he’s ever been in the water before, but you know Harry. He likes adventure,” Hermione said.

“He doesn’t really seem like Harry though,” Ron said before he could stop himself.
“How do you mean?” Hermione asked.

“I dunno. I’m used to that emotionless mask Harry always wears. He hides what he feels. This little kid—”

“— Is Harry,” Hermione interrupted. “Ron, I think he learned how to hide what he was feeling. I think he had to in order to survive in that house. You’re seeing him before he’d mastered that.”

Ron hadn’t quite thought of it that way. That meant Harry was much more vulnerable when he was stuck with the Dursleys alone. “At least when we knew him, he had us, you know? This Harry doesn’t have anybody.”

“No,” Hermione said sadly. “He didn’t, and I think it affected him far more than I’d ever considered.”

“Have you been reading about this, Hermione?” Ron asked, feeling both incredibly fond and incredibly exasperated with his girlfriend.

“Of course I have,” Hermione said as if it were a stupid question. “Ginny and I have been talking a lot about it, too.”

A squeal from Harry distracted them. They turned to see George holding Harry. Ginny had apparently tossed him. Harry looked both exhilarated and terrified as he clung to George’s neck.

“Oi, George, toss him here,” Ron said.

Hermione inhaled sharply as George tossed Harry through the air into Ron’s waiting arms. Harry squealed when he was in the air, but laughed once he had a good grip on Ron.

“Again!” he said happily.

“Send him back,” George said, taking a few steps back.

“Oh, do be careful,” Hermione said worriedly.

“They’re all right, “Ginny said. “Bill and Charlie used to do this with Ron and me. Look how happy he is.”

“I think he looks terrified,” Hermione said, her eyes never leaving Harry as he flew through the air again. George caught him and tossed him in the air once more for good measure. Harry was already positioning his little body to be tossed back to Ron.

“Of course he is, but that’s half the fun. Isn’t that what being a Gryffindor is all about? The adrenaline rush?” Ginny said, laughing.

“I don’t know,” Hermione said. “I always thought being brave meant being afraid and doing it anyway.”

Ginny reached out and hugged Hermione, startling the other girl. “That works, too, Hermione,” she said.

The girls pulled themselves up on the edge of the swimming pool while Ron and George continued to toss Harry, each taking a step back after every toss. Finally, the distance became too great, and George missed by a few inches. Harry plunged under the water. It only lasted for a second before George scooped him up. Harry’s expression was shocked as he gasped and clung to George’s neck, water dripping from his hair.

“Good job, Harry. I wondered when you’d be brave enough to put your face in. I knew you would do it,” Ginny called as if Harry had gone under on purpose.

Ron watched as Harry’s hold on George loosened a little. He turned to stare at Ginny, wide-eyed.

"You think I'm brave?" he asked uncertainly.

"Of course I do. I think you're brave, and clever, and very kind," Ginny said solemnly.

Harry gaped at her as if he'd never been told any of those things. It dawned on Ron that at this age, he probably hadn't.

"You do?" Harry asked, searching for any sign she was having him on.

"I do," Ginny said in that same serious tone.

Harry grinned at her. She slid back into the water and swam over to George, holding her arms out.

“Come on. Shall I teach you to blow bubbles?” she asked.

Harry reached for her immediately. As he and Ginny began a game of bubble blowing, Ron swam over to Hermione, who looked very appealing sitting on the ledge.

“I like how you look in that bathing costume,” he told her, keeping his voice low so neither George nor Harry would hear him.

Hermione put her hand to her stomach. “Do you? My mum bought it for me when we were in Spain,” she said.

“Hogwarts robes cover a lot,’ Ron said, nodding fervently.

“Do they?” Hermione said, arching her eyebrow.

Ron knew he’d said something wrong, but he honestly didn’t know what. How was he supposed to think straight when she was sitting there looking like that? It was unfair, that’s what it was.

Ron didn’t want to use words. Hermione always outsmarted him when they used words. He grabbed her hands and pulled her into the water, kissing her soundly.

Hermione gasped as he pulled her in, opening her mouth and giving Ron the opportunity to deepen the kiss.

“A bit much when there are children present, don’t you think?” George asked, his voice uncomfortably close.

Ron opened his eyes to find him standing directly beside him and Hermione. Hermione blinked, looking a bit dazed. Ron was pleased he could cause that kind of reaction in her.

“Piss off, George,” he muttered.

George wrapped his arm around both him and Hermione, squeezing them tight to his chest. “It’s so nice to see young love blooming right here in the bosom of our home. It makes me feel so special. Haven’t you always felt special when wrapped in the bosom, Ron?”

Hermione turned bright red. Ron had left his wand on his towel, which was out of reach, but he was considering just hauling off and decking his brother.

“What’s a bosom?” Harry asked innocently, causing the color on Ginny’s face to redden enough to match Hermione’s.

Hermione pulled herself out of the water, found her clothes and pulled her shirt back on, ruining the view Ron had been enjoying.

Now Ron really wanted to hit George.

“Do you want to play another game of toss with George and Ron?” Ginny asked.

“Yes!” Harry shouted gleefully, forgetting all about his question.

Ginny plopped him in Ron’s arms and joined Hermione on her towel.

Ron was far more focused on Hermione and her wonderful bathing costume than he was on catching Harry. George was perfectly happy to play and continue needling Ron. They’d tossed Harry back and forth a few times before Ron missed, and Harry went under. Ron pulled him up quickly, but Harry was choking and coughing. He obviously hadn’t closed his mouth in time.

He clutched Ron’s neck tightly, gasping. Ron suddenly felt like a heel. Harry trusted him completely, and he really hadn't been paying attention.

"Sorry, mate," he said. "I missed."

To Ron's surprise, Harry smiled. "It's all right to make a mistake as long as you try and fix it."

Ron grinned. "How did you get so clever?"

Harry beamed. "Ginny thinks I'm clever, too," he said with obvious delight. Ron suspected he was storing up these compliments to savor later.

"Hey, Harry. Want to try jumping in, and I'll catch you? George asked.

Harry nodded eagerly. Ron lifted him out of the water onto the ledge where, without pause, he took a running start and hurled himself into George's waiting arms.

George was surprised, but he laughed. "Good one."

"Again," Harry exclaimed.

Ron pulled himself out, and sat on the towel beside the girls.

"He's having a lot of fun," Hermione said. "I think we'll all have to be really careful of anything George gives us to eat for a while. I can see him plotting how to use this."

"Too right," Ginny agreed, nodding.

Ron put a folded-up towel under his head and shut his eyes. The afternoon sun felt nice, and he was suddenly feeling rather knackered.

"Is he wearing you out, Ron?" Hermione asked, amused.

"A little kip wouldn't be a bad thing," Ron said, smirking. "I wonder what Mum is making for supper."

"Are you hungry already?" Hermione asked, exasperated.

Ron didn't know why this should surprise her. She should know he was always hungry by now.

"Bill and Fleur will be here for supper so Fleur can give Harry the antidote before he goes to bed,” Ron replied. "Mum should be making something good."

“I’ll miss him,” Hermione said sadly.

“Me, too,” Ginny replied.

Ron opened his eyes and looked at the two as if they were barking. “He’ll still be here, just… normal again.”

“I know, but he’s terribly cute this way, don’t you think?” Hermione asked, watching Harry jump repeatedly into George's arms.

“He’s cute when he’s older too, but I wish I could keep both versions,” Ginny said, smiling fondly.

Ron shrugged. “Well, you’ll probably end up with a kid that looks just like him one day, anyway. Then you can have both.”

Ginny and Hermione both turned to stare at him, gaping.

“What?” Ron asked.

Hermione giggled, while Ginny shook her head, her face turning pink.

“I think it’s time we take a break,” George said, dropping a shivering Harry on the towel between Ron and the girls.

“B— b— but I’m not c— cold,” Harry insisted. His blue lips contradicted him, however.

Ginny wrapped a heavy towel around him, rubbing her hands up and down to cause some warming friction. “Come sit here with us for a few minutes break,” she said, tugging the protesting Harry down beside her.

“This is boring,” he grumbled unhappily, staring longingly back at the water.

“You do look a bit chilly,” Hermione said, doing her best not to laugh.

“Well, I’m not,” Harry pouted. “I’m fine.”

“He never grows out of that, I see,” George said, amused.

Ron still wasn’t happy with George, so he ignored him. Looking over at the house, he saw Bill and Fleur arrive at the Apparition point.

“Bill and Fleur are here,” he said, nodding his head toward them.

“Already?” Ginny asked, looking around. Ron thought she sounded rather disappointed, and Ginny was never usually disappointed to see Bill.

“Who’s that?” Harry asked.

“That’s our oldest brother and his wife. We told you they were coming for dinner tonight, remember?” Ginny asked.

“How many brothers do you have?” Harry asked, amazed.

“Si— Five,” Ginny said, catching herself. She looked surprised as she swallowed heavily. “I have five brothers.”

Ginny sounded as if she might cry. Ron felt as if he’d been struck in the gut. He now had one less brother. How was he supposed to answer that question? He hadn’t really thought about it. His insides squirmed uncomfortably.

George got up abruptly and walked away. He stood staring at the water with his back to them.

Harry looked from face to face worriedly, finally settling on Hermione. “Did I do something wrong?” he asked.

Hermione opened her arms, and he shifted over to her. “No, it’s not you, Harry. The Weasleys have seven kids in their family, but one of them, their brother Fred, died not too long ago,” she said gently.

“Oh.” Harry said.

Ginny pulled herself together with some effort, obviously not wanting to upset Harry. “You’re just the first one who’s asked me how many brothers I had since Fred died. I was surprised, that’s all.”

“But you still have six brothers, just one of them died, right?” Harry asked innocently.

“You’re right,” Ginny said, her eyes bright. “I have six brothers. I’ll always have six brothers.”

“You would’ve liked Fred,” George said, still facing away from them. “He liked to make jokes, and everyone always smiled when he was around.”

“Maybe someone in Heaven needed cheering up, so he went to help them,” Harry said thoughtfully.

Ron smiled at him. “I bet you’re right.”

Harry smiled back, his shoulders relaxing. He began counting on his fingers before he looked up and asked, “So, who’s the other brother?”

“What?” Ron asked.

“You and George, Percy, the one in heaven, and the one with a wife,” Harry said, sticking up a finger for each. “One more.”

“Very good counting,” Hermione said, impressed.

“I’m good at maths,” Harry said, nodding.

“Charlie lives in Romania,” Ron said absently, still thinking about Fred making the other dearly departed laugh. “He works with dragons.”

Harry stared at him, gaping. “You’re fooling me.”

“No-”

“Of course he is,” Hermione interrupted, glaring at Ron. “Charlie works at a zoo in Romania.”

Ron kept forgetting Harry didn’t believe in magic. It would be much easier tomorrow when his best mate was back to normal.

“Dudley likes to go to the zoo,” Harry said, “but I don’t think he ever saw a dragon there.”

Ron snorted. “It would probably eat him if he did. Bet he’d make a good snack.”

“Ron!” Hermione scolded, but Harry laughed.

“D’you really think Fred is making everyone laugh?” George asked, re-joining them on the towels.

Ron held his breath. It was hard to know what would set George off these days. He’d been so volatile.

“Didn’t you say that’s what he liked to do?” Harry asked.

“Yeah,” George said.

“Then why wouldn’t he still be doing that?” Harry asked matter-of-factly.

George grinned. “No reason at all,” he said, ruffling Harry’s hair.




Dinner that night was an enjoyable affair. It consisted of roast chicken with jacket potatoes, and a scrumptious chocolate cake for pudding. Fleur monopolized most of Harry’s attention, and she kept casting dewy-eyed stares at Bill. Both Ginny and Hermione seemed rather put out, but Ron thought it was only fair. Fleur had created the antidote potion, and she hadn’t got to spend any time with little Harry at all. All the girls seemed rather taken with him, so it made sense that Fleur was, as well.

After all that swimming, Harry was having trouble keeping his eyes open, and eventually put his head right down on the table.

Fleur stood up and took a flask of blue potion off the counter and poured it into a cup.

“’Ere you are, mon Cherie. Before you go to sleep, drink this,” she said, putting the cup in Harry’s hands.

“What is it?” he asked sleepily, staring into the cup distastefully.

“Just a bit of medicine,” Fleur said.

“I’m not sick,” Harry argued. “Aunt Petunia says I don’t need medicine, anyway.”

Ron’s parents both scowled at this.

“Well, you do,” Ron’s mother said firmly. “All children do. Just take it, dear. It doesn’t taste bad.”

Harry reluctantly swallowed the potion. Ron remembered the potions he had to take as a kid never tasted as bad as the ones he had to take once he got to Hogwarts. He vaguely wondered why they couldn’t do something for the taste always.

At first there was no effect, but then Harry’s eyes began to droop. Mum scooped him up, and he rested his head on her shoulder, sticking his thumb in his mouth.

“Don’t put any pajamas on him,” Fleur instructed. “It might hurt as he grows back to his natural size.”

Ron and all the men at the table shifted uncomfortably. Mum nodded and carried Harry up to bed.

“You’re certain it will work?” Hermione asked worriedly.

“I am,” Fleur nodded. “It’s a fairly simple potion to brew. I’m surprised they do not teach it at ‘Ogwarts. At Beauxbatons, we learn in our fifth year.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “How long will it take?”

"Eet depends on how much a person needs to age. He will be right by morning,” Fleur replied.

“Will it hurt?” Ginny asked.

“Not awful, but eet will be uncomfortable. This is why it’s best to do while he sleeps,” Fleur said. “Do not worry. He will be all right.”

Ron thought Ginny still looked worried. Truth be told, he was a little worried, too. It would be a long night.


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