|SIYE Time:5:00 on 22nd June 2018|
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: 101330; Chapter Total: 4202
Awards: View Trophy Room
Thanks for all the lovely reviews last chapter! I had two questions that I thought were worth mentioning. I’ve been told JKR has said in an interview that Neville became an Auror before going on to teach. I did not see this bit – still haven’t! – so, for this story, he does not join the Auror program. You will hear where Neville is working in a later chapter.
Second – one astute reviewer asked how Anna was allowed to stay and fight in the Battle of Hogwarts. Both Ron and Hermione turned seventeen during the course of their sixth year, and were thus able to take their Apparition licenses. So, even though Ginny wasn’t yet of age, I think the majority of her classmates would’ve turned seventeen by May and been allowed to choose if they wanted to stay and fight. Anna (and Siobhan and Liz, too) were all seventeen. Just like Harry, Ginny is the youngest of her roommates.
Harry sat at the kitchen table of The Burrow with paperwork scattered around him. He couldn’t believe how many forms he had to fill out. It was endless. Harry had always hated homework, and this felt like homework. Ron sat at the other end of the table doing the same thing. After what felt like an extremely long day at the Ministry, they’d been sent home with a stack of papers that needed to be filled out before they returned the next day.
They’d also had to be subjected to the humiliation of a Ministry physical. Thankfully, Harry had met with the Mediwitch several weeks before, so his exam didn’t last as long as any of the others. She was pleased that the bruise on his chest was finally nearly healed. Only a faint, yellowish outline remained around his lightning-bolt-shaped scar.
He and Ron had also, at long last, got their Apparition licenses. Not that it really mattered — they’d been Apparating for ages — but it felt grown up to have it, somehow.
Harry had nearly finished. He sat staring at one particular piece of parchment, the medical form. He’d agreed to treatment in the field and given consent for the Ministry to request his school medical records. The one question he struggled with was next of kin. He wasn’t certain what to write on that line.
His first thought had been to write Ron’s name, but the instructions said it had to be someone outside the Auror program. Hermione and Ginny were returning to Hogwarts in a couple of months, so they weren’t available to show up if he were hurt. He didn’t think he was going to be hurt during training, anyway, so why did he have to fill this out?
He didn’t want to write the Weasleys, as he feared he’d be stepping on Ron’s toes. He still had misgivings about the way the Horcrux had taunted Ron. So he was left with the dilemma of whose name he should write on the form. He supposed he could put Andromeda, but he would be exceedingly embarrassed if she ever found out he did. They still hardly knew each other.
Harry shoved the paper away and stuck his fingers beneath his glasses, pressing on his eyes until he spots.
“Everything all right, mate?” Ron asked, his eyes bleary.
“I’m tired of doing this,” Harry said without removing his hands. The pressure on his eyes felt soothing.
“I’m just about done,” Ron said.
“Still filling out your forms, boys?” Mr. Weasley asked, entering the kitchen and taking a glass from the cupboard.
“We’ve been here for hours,” Ron complained.
Mr. Weasley grinned as he looked over the forms Ron was filling out. “The Ministry does love its procedures. Muggles have a term for it. They call it… red stick, er… something like that.”
“Red tape,” Harry replied, grinning as he pulled his fingers from beneath his glasses. Mr. Weasley looked a little blurry for a moment.
“Right,” Mr. Weasley said excitedly, his eyes still looking at all the papers. Harry noticed him stiffen. “Er… Ron, you missed this section, here.”
“What?” Ron asked, realizing one of his forms had another page stuck to it. “Oh, no. This is impossible.”
“You can do it,” Mr. Weasely said. “You look finished, Harry. Care to join me for a game of chess?”
Harry was surprised, but oddly delighted. He knew Mr. Weasley had taught Ron and all the others how to play, so he didn’t stand a chance. But he never beat Ron, either.
“All right, but I’m not very good,” he said, standing and stretching his arms behind his back, which cracked from sitting so long.
Mr. Weasley poured a second drink and led Harry into the parlor. “Black or white?” he asked, handing Harry a glass filled halfway with amber liquid.
Harry recognized it and glanced at Mr. Weasley warily. Mr. Weasley grinned, nodding.
“I told you, I enjoy a glass of Firewhisky on occasion. It’s relaxing, and you need to see it’s fine if you don’t over indulge,” Mr. Weasley said, sipping his own drink before placing it on the table.
Harry still had his doubts. He placed his glass on the table without taking any. “I usually play white when I play with Ron,” he said.
“Then I’ll be black,” Mr. Weasley replied easily, beginning to arrange his pieces.
“Ron taught me how to play in first year,” Harry said, not completely certain why he felt nervous. “He always beats me, though.”
Mr. Weasley grinned. “He always beats me, too. It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about the enjoyment of the game.”
Harry moved a pawn. “He can beat you even though you were the one who taught him?” Harry asked curiously. He reached over and took a sip of his Firewhisky after all. It burned going down, but warmed his insides pleasantly.
“He beat me for the first time when he was ten. I will admit, I was rather stunned by it, but I never let him win. He took to the game quicker, and enjoyed it more, than any of the others. I think the reason Fr—” Mr. Weasley stopped and cleared his throat, “Fred and George teased him so was their frustration that their little brother could beat them handily at something.”
Harry glanced up, noticing the pinched lines around Mr. Weasley’s eyes. He had a sudden, irrational fear that Mr. Weasley would start throwing chess pieces at him and blaming him for the loss of his son. He froze for a minute before shaking it off. Mr. Weasley would never throw things at him, even if he did blame him. And somehow, Harry suspected he actually didn’t. He took another sip of his drink.
“I think Fred and George might’ve liked to tease Ron so much because he rose to it so quickly, too,” he said, fearing he was overstepping his bounds to give his opinion. Uncle Vernon had always been adamantly opposed to being contradicted.
Mr. Weasley laughed. “You’re right about that. Ron could always be a bit sensitive. Being the youngest boy left him insecure, but he’s come along stunningly,” he said, pride obvious in his voice.
Harry was ashamed to feel jealous of his best mate. He moved another pawn, and Mr. Weasley captured it immediately.
“How do you feel your first day of training went?” Mr. Weasley asked, moving his knight and taking a sip of his own drink.
“It went all right. We didn’t really do too much other than listen to the instructor. I don’t think he’s pleased with rushing people through the training,” Harry replied.
“Naturally,” Mr. Weasley said, smiling. “Most people don’t like change. Thaddeus Pierce has been preparing Aurors for years, and quite successfully. If there hadn’t been so many Aurors lost during the war, I don’t think there would’ve been any need to change. We can’t control every circumstance, however. Thaddeus will adapt, it just might take him some time, and you get to bear the brunt of his frustration.”
“Lucky me,” Harry said.
“He’s a good man. The Death Eaters who infiltrated the Ministry never tried to convert him. They saw him as a lost cause. The ones they saw as lost causes are the ones we want to empower now,” Mr. Weasley said.
“And you were one of them,” Harry said, remembering the intense scrutiny Mr. Weasley had been under at the Ministry.
He captured one of Mr. Weasley’s pawns.
Color suffused Mr. Weasley’s ears as he shifted in his chair. “Yes, well… I’ve long been considered a blood-traitor.”
“But not anymore. I hear you’re going to give the recruits some lessons in Muggle relations,” Harry said, feeling pleased Mr. Weasley was finally getting some recognition.
“That’s true,” Mr. Weasley said, smiling as he nudged his knight towards Harry’s queen. “Have you noticed anything different about this room?”
Harry’s brow furrowed. “Pardon?” he asked, looking around the familiar sitting area.
Mr. Weasley nodded his head to the back wall which was littered with pictures of the Weasley children in various stages of growth. Harry studied the wall curiously and felt a jolt in his stomach when he noticed a new addition. It was a picture of Harry as a toddler, splattered in mud and giggling madly as he ran in the back garden.
Harry’s face colored. He felt both thrilled and embarrassed. He’d never had his picture put on the wall before — unless you counted the Chosen One wanted posters. He was immensely touched they’d included him with their own children, and also pleased he wasn’t doing anything extraordinarily embarrassing.
“I… er… that’s me,” he said stupidly. He took another sip of his drink simply to have something to do with his hands. The Firewhisky had relaxed him, and he didn’t feel the urge to flee the room.
Mr. Weasley smiled. “Molly tends to go a bit overboard with her camera, but it’s a nice addition to our wall,” he said. “You are family here, Harry, and we’re happy to have you. I hope one day you’ll feel the same.”
Harry suddenly suspected Mr. Weasley might have noticed his leaving the next-of-kin spot blank on his paperwork.
He ducked his head. “Thank you, Mr. Weasley. You’ve always made me feel more than welcome.”
“You are,” Mr. Weasley replied simply.
“Bloody hell!” Ron shouted from the kitchen.
Both Harry and Mr. Weasley looked up sharply as Ron came storming into the room waving a copy of the Daily Prophet’s evening addition. He slammed the paper on the table, shaking it and making the remainder of their drinks swirl around their glasses. Harry looked down to see Ginny and himself on the cover. She was holding his hand at the Leaky Cauldron, and every so often he leaned over and kissed her soundly.
That had never happened in the restaurant. He hadn’t kissed her like that until they’d Apparated back to the paddock behind The Burrow where there were no prying eyes.
The headline screamed, “Chosen One Finds His Chosen Lady?”
“That’s not… I didn’t… She… ” Harry spluttered, uncertain what he wanted to say. He picked up his glass and finished the remainder of his Firewhisky.
“What were you thinking?” Ron shouted.
“We were having lunch,” Harry said, feeling ganged-up on.
“It’s all right,” Mr. Weasley said. “This was bound to happen sooner or later. Bill has already strengthened the wards to keep the press away from The Burrow.”
Harry glanced up sharply. Mr. Weasley didn’t seem overly upset to see Harry kissing his daughter.
“That never happened there,” he said, pointing at the picture. He couldn’t fully deny it since he had kissed her, but he hadn’t pounced on her in public that way.
Mr. Weasley smiled, his ears red. “I’m aware young people enjoy an occasional snog, Harry. I do have rather fond memories of my youth,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I still enjoy snogging Ginny’s mother.”
Harry’s face flamed as that image arose in his mind. He really didn’t want to think about that.
“Never mind the kissing,” Ron shouted. “Anyone could have sneaked up on you there. You’re not even paying attention.”
“No one sneaked up on us, Ron. I’m always paying attention. I would never let anything happen to Ginny,” Harry said hotly.
“I know you wouldn’t let anything happen to her, it’s your own hide you tend to forget about,” Ron snapped.
“Boys,” Mr. Weasley said, interrupting them. “We can’t live in a bubble, but now that the press has been alerted to your relationship with Ginny, we’re all going to be scrutinized when we’re out in public.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Harry said, ducking his head.
“It is not your fault, Harry,” Mr. Weasley said firmly. “We just need to be vigilant.”
“You think the missing Death Eaters might target her since they’ve been unable to get to me?” Harry asked, realization dawning. He felt a sense of horror wash over him. This couldn’t be happening again.
“It’s possible,” Mr. Weasley conceded, making Harry feel sick. He sank back into his chair. “The fact remains, they’ve been unable to get to you, so they’ve been unable to get to her.”
“There you go, mate,” Ron said, calming slightly as if he just became aware of Harry’s despair. “You’ll just have to keep Ginny with you.”
Harry tried to smile but wasn’t sure he succeeded entirely. He suddenly felt exhausted. He yawned as he absently moved his queen.
Mr. Weasley moved his own piece. “Checkmate,” he said quietly. “Try not to worry, lad. Our family has always been better off with you in our lives.”
Harry looked up quickly, finding nothing but sincerity in Mr. Weasleys pale blue eyes. “How can you say that?” he asked, agonized.
“Never mind the fact that neither Ron, Ginny nor myself would be here without you,” Mr. Weasley said, raising his hand when Harry tried to interrupt. “It’s because we like you. You fit in our family as if you’ve always been there.”
“But if I hadn’t sat with Ron on that first day—”
“You would’ve met in the common room, or in class. You were meant to be friends — with all of us. The war would’ve touched us, regardless,” Mr. Weasley said firmly.
“But I brought it so much closer,” Harry whispered, his head down.
“It’s not your fault Fred died, Harry. He was an incredibly brave young man, fighting to defend his way of life. He would’ve done that regardless if he knew you personally or not. There were many who fought that day that had no personal connection. It didn’t matter. The cause was just,” Mr. Weasley insisted, his voice raw. “I wish I still had my son. But I blame Voldemort, not you, for his loss.”
Harry’s vision blurred. He hadn’t realized how desperately he needed to hear Mr. Weasley say that until he’d done so. Mr. Weasley drew him into a hug, patting him on the back before letting go.
“Thank you,” Harry said, reaching out and tentatively grasping the older man’s shoulder and giving it a brief squeeze.
“It’s never been your fault, mate,” Ron declared, clapping Harry on the back. “You’d save yourself so much grief if you simply listened to me more often.”
Harry smiled weakly, yawning again.
“I’m going to bed,” he said, bringing his glass out to the sink. He noticed the paperwork still sitting on the table. He gathered it all up in one stack, staring at the top one for a moment. Before he could talk himself out of it, he quickly filled in the last line.
For his next of kin, he listed Molly and Arthur Weasley.
Ron re-read the same paragraph for what felt like the fifth time. The Auror trainees were sitting in a classroom reading up on Ministry protocols. Ron found it mind-numbingly boring, but he knew Instructor Pierce would quiz them all on the information shortly.
Ron glanced over at Harry, who was bent over his own text reading intently. Ron knew Harry didn’t like rules any better than he did. How was he managing to study them so attentively?
They’d already spent the majority of their time the previous evening filling out boring paperwork. Ron wanted to do something. He felt the need to move around a bit. The picture in the Daily Prophet had him all worked up, and he needed to expend some energy.
When he saw the photo of Harry leaning over to kiss his sister, he’d cringed. He really didn’t want to watch them doing that. It was better not to know.
He reckoned Harry felt the same about what went on between him and Hermione. What bothered him wasn’t the kiss, however, it was Harry’s sole focus on Ginny. There had already been an attempt on Harry’s life since the war ended, never mind the accident at Grimmauld Place. Harry couldn’t afford to get distracted like that.
Ron was still having a lot of difficulty wrapping his mind around the fact Harry had died. It plagued him. His heartrate increased and his palms got all sweaty whenever Harry was out of his sight. Anything could happen, and Harry wasn’t very good at watching out for himself. He was very good at watching out for Ginny, however. Perhaps having them stick together would keep Harry safe as well.
But he still didn’t want to watch them kissing.
He did want to kiss Hermione. She’d sneaked up to his room this morning when Harry had left to have a shower, but she’d only stayed briefly. She didn’t want to get caught. Ron hadn’t cared if they got caught, but he’d put in a supreme effort not to push her. He’d behaved like a perfect gentleman these past few weeks.
It was killing him, though. Thankfully, Harry was an earlier riser, giving Ron some alone time in the morning to relieve the pressure. Ron felt as if these days all he had to do was picture Hermione’s smile, and he’d get turned on. He wished he knew what she was thinking.
She’d freaked out in Australia when he got carried away and started in on his experience with Lavender. He definitely didn’t want to have that conversation again, but he also really wanted to get carried away with Hermione.
He wasn’t certain if she wanted to get carried away with him, however. He’d been delighted when she showed up that morning and plopped down beside him. She’d kissed him before he’d even fully become cognizant she was there. But then she’d left as soon as he was fully awake. Girls were so confusing!
Ron sighed, trying to read the chapter again.
The Ministry certainly liked their procedures. Perhaps Kingsley would do something about that. He and Harry had handed in all their forms when they arrived this morning, and Ron had hoped that would be the end of it. Apparently not.
He remembered glancing at Harry’s forms the night before when he was stumped on a question. Harry had left a blank in the spot for next of kin. He could be such a prat.
Ron was going to say something when the owl arrived with the Daily Prophet. His dad must have covered it, however, because he’d noticed that morning that Harry had put Ron’s parents in the empty spot.
He was happy about that. He knew part of Harry’s hesitation was Ron’s fault. Ron had accused Harry of not caring about the Weasleys before he’d abandoned Harry and Hermione. He’d tossed the fact Harry’s own family was dead in his face.
He didn’t think he’d ever live that down. It had to be his lowest moment. Since Fred’s death, Ron had come to appreciate his family so much more. Realizing how easily he could lose them had sobered him. He couldn’t even imagine how alone Harry must have felt. Ron nearly didn’t survive losing one brother — never mind his whole family in one go — and Ron, his best mate, had taunted him over it.
He didn’t know how to broach it with him, however. Harry had forgiven him — again! Ron didn’t want to bring it all back up. He wanted to make it up to him, but he didn’t know how.
At least his dad had managed to get through to Harry. That had to count as progress. Ron didn’t want Harry to feel so alone. He wasn’t alone, and he never would be again, but it would be a moot point until Harry actually felt it.
Ron gritted his teeth in disgust. Thank Merlin his brothers couldn’t hear him waxing on about feelings. Pathetic.
“Are you actually going to read that or just scowl at it?” Harry mumbled from the corner of his mouth.
Ron was an idiot to think Harry hadn’t noticed.
“I was thinking of starting a game of hangman. You up for it?” Ron asked.
Harry snorted quietly. They had frequently passed the time in History of Magic playing hangman. Ron didn’t think they’d get away with that under Instructor Pierce’s watch.
“All right, boys and girls, put your texts away,” Instructor Pierce said. “We’re going to take an hour for lunch, then you’ll be quizzed on this material. Cafeteria is on level seven.”
The trainees all stood, stretching and working the kinks out of their necks as they moved as a herd toward the door. Instructor Pierce had been referring to them as boys and girls instead of men and women all morning, and it was grating on Ron’s nerves. He suspected that was exactly why Pierce was doing it, but it rankled nonetheless.
“I wonder how detailed the questions on the quiz will be,” Lisa Turpin said as soon as they were out the door. “There are a lot of procedures to memorize in such a short amount of time.
She sounded worried. At that moment, she reminded Ron a lot of Hermione before an examination at Hogwarts. Ron wished Hermione were taking this course with them. He never thought he’d miss her detailed analysis of every subject.
“I don’t think he’s looking for specifics,” Duncan Tate said offhandedly.
“How do you mean?” Harry asked curiously.
Tate shrugged pensively. “I think right now he’s looking for how much we pay attention. He wants to know our attitudes toward the Ministry.”
“Why do you think that?” Susan Bones asked, affronted. “My auntie put a lot of these protocols in place before she was killed, and she wasn’t a frivolous person. The rules are here for a reason.”
“Some of these procedures are ancient, Bones,” Rory MacDonald said. He was the muscular wizard with dark curly hair who hadn’t said much the previous day. This morning, however, it was clear he found the rest of his classmates rather useless. “Your auntie couldn’t have issued all of them.”
“I didn’t say she’s responsible for all of them,” Susan said, scowling.
“Why do you think they’re looking at our attitudes, Tate?” Harry asked, ignoring the spat between the other two.
Tate shrugged. “A few comments Pierce made yesterday about playing by the rules and following direction. I’m not always so good at that,” he said, grinning.
“Me, either,” Harry said ruefully.
“So I’ve heard,” Tate responded, chuckling. “Did you really start a teenage Defense club right under the Ministry’s nose during the war?”
“He did,” Susan said. “I was part of it. Ron was, too.”
Tate’s eyes glanced at Ron, nodding slightly. Ron returned his gaze, but he wasn’t about to let his guard down yet. He suspected Harry liked this new bloke, which meant Ron had to watch his back.
“Yeah, but Potter always was a teacher’s pet. It’s not like he would’ve got in as much trouble as another student,” Cormac McClaggan said derisively.
“What are you talking about? He nearly got chucked out over it,” Ron said indignantly.
“But Dumbledore took the fall for him. As if he’d have done that for anyone else,” McClaggan said, rolling his eyes.
“Yeah, cause Umbridge went so easy on him,” Ron snarled.
“Ron,” Harry said warningly, but Ron was having none of it.
“As usual, McClaggan, you’re talking out your arse,” Ron said.
“Oh, as if Potter still isn’t getting special treatment now,” Rory MacDonald said bitingly. “He spent twice as long with the instructor yesterday as any of the rest of us.”
“Can’t really blame the man for wanting to stare into those dreamy eyes, can you?” Violet Benson asked. She was the third witch in their group and already recognized as an outrageous flirt. Ron could see she made Harry uncomfortable.
Harry ducked his head.
“Yeah, couldn’t have been because Potter might have more defensive knowledge than the rest of us,” Tate said sarcastically.
Harry nodded at Tate, and Ron’s opinion of the dark-skinned wizard rose several notches. It looked as if McClaggan and MacDonald were birds of a feather.
“And the Potter fan club begins anew,” McClaggan scoffed.
As they entered the cafeteria, McClaggan and MacDonald took off in one direction while Lisa Turpin sat at a small table and pulled out her text book. After selecting their lunches, Duncan, Violet and Susan joined Harry and Ron at another table. Violet absently placed all of the condiments on the table in order according to height.
“I wonder what we’ll do this afternoon after the quiz,” Susan said.
“Stealth and Tracking,” Violet answered before taking a bite of her sandwich.
“How do you know?” Duncan asked curiously.
Ron was glad he’d asked the question. His own mouth was too full. He was starving. Harry had paid for his lunch without comment, but Ron was eagerly anticipating his first pay so he could take Harry out to lunch for a change.
And take Hermione on a proper date. His stomach fluttered at the thought of treating Hermione to a proper date.
“Saw it on Pierce’s notes when he was gathering up his things,” Violet replied. “How old do you think Pierce is, anyway?”
“Early forties at most,” Susan said.
“He’s in really fit shape for an older bloke,” Violet said. “Do you know if he’s married?”
“I don’t think so,” Susan said. “My auntie never mentioned his wife, but things could’ve changed. A lot of people got married during the war.”
“That’s what my mum said when my oldest brother married,” Ron said, swallowing a mouthful of sandwich. “She said it happened a lot during the first war, too.”
“And there was a huge baby boom after Harry here defeated You-Know-Who as a baby. Think we’ll see another one around… er, next February, perhaps?” Violet laughed, counting out nine months after the war ended.
Susan laughed. “Wouldn’t surprise me. People were… affectionate after the battle.”
Ron stared at her, perplexed. He’d gone to sleep right after the battle. He didn’t remember anyone being affectionate. They were all in mourning, for crying out loud.
Harry looked irritated, but Ron suspected that had more to do with Violet’s use of ‘You-Know-Who’ rather than the idea of anyone getting a leg over after the battle.
“I wasn’t even in this country, and I celebrated with a very accommodating French girl,” Duncan said, wagging his eyebrows.
“Did you?” Violet asked, looking at Duncan with new appreciation.
Duncan grinned wolfishly.
“How about you, Harry?” Susan asked. “The Chosen One and all. You must’ve had witches throwing themselves at your feet.”
“Er… ” Harry said, looking trapped.
“I saw your picture in the paper yesterday. Looked like you were getting cozy with a pretty red-haired girl,” Violet said flippantly.
“That’s my sister,” Ron said through gritted teeth.
“Harry and Ginny dated back at Hogwarts, but I thought you’d broken up,” Susan said suspiciously.
Harry remained silent, but Ron couldn’t take it. “He didn’t want her targeted because of him.”
“She must appreciate your looking after her,” Violet said demurely.
“Ginny can look after herself,” Harry said quietly.
“How about you?” Duncan asked, looking at Ron. “Got a girlfriend?”
“I do,” Ron said proudly. “She’s going back to Hogwarts to finish her education on September first.”
“You finally ended up with Granger then?” Susan asked.
“What d’you mean finally?” Ron asked. Why did everyone keep saying that?
Susan laughed rather unkindly. “Come on, Weasley. Everyone knew you fancied her. Everyone but poor Lavender, anyway. I think there was a pool on whether or not you two would ever get together. Actually, I think it was one of your own brothers who started that pool.”
Ron sat still, spluttering.
“What about you, Susan? Is there a boyfriend in your life?” Duncan asked.
“Not at the moment, but I’m taking applications if you’re interested in the position,” Susan fired back.
Duncan waved his hands. “Not me. I like the bachelor life. Besides, my mum always said to never get involved with people at work.”
“My mum never said that,” Violet said, batting her eyes at Duncan.
Ron was beginning to suspect Violet flirted to test a reaction rather than any real romantic interest. He’d have to ask Hermione why she’d do that.
When their lunch hour was up, they travelled back to the classroom. As they reached the door, Rory MacDonald darted past them and took the seat next to Lisa Turpin where Ron had been sitting earlier. He shrugged and took another chair as Instructor Pierce handed out the quizzes. As he struggled to remember his facts, he noticed Rory peering over at Lisa’s paper.
He’d definitely have to watch out for that one.
Ginny stood outside her father’s shed, pacing. An internal battle raged within her mind. She’d been meaning to have a chat with her dad for ages about his concerns over Harry’s upbringing. With all the drama of Charlie leaving, then Harry’s accident, her exams, and Harry starting Auror training…well, it kept getting pushed aside.
Her concern hadn’t abated, however.
She really didn’t want to betray Harry’s confidence, but she wasn’t certain keeping quiet was the best option, either. Ron mentioned that Dad had already questioned Harry, so that meant that he’d noticed something off before any of the rest of them did. She wanted to think of herself as an adult, but she really had no idea how to handle this. If she thought of herself as an adult, then she’d have to say Harry was, too, and he definitely didn’t want to discuss it. It didn’t seem like the kind of thing that should be left alone, but she had to admit he seemed to be doing much better.
She didn’t know what was right, and she needed some guidance. As far as she was concerned, there was no better person to offer guidance than her dad. Perhaps being an adult meant knowing when you needed help.
She paced back and forth in front of the door, raising her hand to push it open then pulling it back again. She took a deep breath to steel herself when her father’s voice drifted through the closed wooden door.
“Are you ever going to make up your mind to come in?”
She could never fool him.
Grinning, she pushed the door open. The shed felt unbearably hot. It was a warm afternoon, and the air was heavy and still. Her father had beads of sweat running down his face as he tinkered with some kind of Muggle device.
“Hi, Dad,” she said.
Her father wiped his brow with a handkerchief. “What can I do for you, Ginny? It seems you have something weighing on your mind.”
“I do,” Ginny said, biting her lower lip.
“Wouldn’t have anything to do with this, would it?” her father asked, nodding at the Daily Prophet lying on his work bench. It was splattered with a black, sticky substance.
She laughed. “No. I knew when we went out in public that our picture would be snapped eventually. They’re doing their best to make lunch at the Leaky Cauldron sound unsavory. They drive Harry mad.”
Her father nodded. “Well, he’s had to deal with it longer than you have,” he said sagely. “If not the Prophet, what’s on your mind?”
“I have to ask you about something. I just don’t know where to start,” Ginny said, frowning.
“The beginning usually works best,” her father said, going back to tinkering with his Muggle toy.
“It’s about Harry,” Ginny said bluntly.
This caught his full attention. “Oh?” he asked, putting his tools down. “Have you had a row?”
“What? No! It’s just… well, Ron said something,” Ginny stuttered.
Her father sighed. “I’m sorry if he disrespected you. Somehow, he forgets he’s only a year older than you are. I thought he’d be reasonable since he likes Harry so much.”
“No! No, he’s fine with me and Harry. Although, you’re right. He can forget I can take care of myself,” Ginny said, disgruntled.
“Ginny, why don’t you tell me what this is about?” her father said patiently.
“Ron said you talked to Harry about the Dursleys’ abuse,” she blurted.
Her father’s gaze narrowed, and the lines around his mouth tightened. “Has something happened?” he asked.
Ginny took a deep breath, her heart thudded rapidly. “I think you saw it before we did. Or at least understood what you were seeing,” she whispered.
“It took me much longer than it should have done,” her dad admitted heavily. “I met them before we attended the Quidditch World Cup, and I didn’t like them. I thought they were negligent. Harry was never cared for as he should’ve been, but it’s only recently that I’ve suspected we should have intervened regardless of Albus’ concerns.”
Ginny’s throat hurt. “Has he told you anything?” she asked.
Her dad shook his head. “Not in so many words, but his actions and what he doesn’t say are very telling. I don’t want to betray his trust, or go against his wishes, but if there is something I need to know, please share it.”
“I don’t want to betray his trust, either, but I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. When we went to Privet Drive to look it over for his relatives, he got upset,” Ginny said, hesitating.
“That’s not unexpected,” her dad said, watching her closely. Her mum would have been screaming at her to spit it out by now, but her dad had always shown more patience. He was just as dangerous if angered, however.
“Dad, there was this tiny cupboard under the stairs. It held cleaning supplies and such… Harry said they kept him in it for ten years,” Ginny said, wide-eyed.
“Pardon?” her dad asked.
“He said that was where he slept for the first ten years he lived with them. I asked him if they ever hit him, and he clearly didn’t want to talk about it,” she said in a rush. Now that she’d started, it was as if the words were bubbling up and demanding release. “He said they used to knock him around and deny him food, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle.”
Her father didn’t say a word. He continued to stare at her for a moment, his brow furrowed. His ears began to grow alarmingly red — always a sure sign of trouble.
“The thing is,” Ginny said worriedly, “you know he was having some trouble after the battle. I know he told you about the Horcrux, and that’s what was causing most of his stress, but we ended up talking about his childhood, too, since we were there. Since then, he really does seem better. I don’t want to do anything that’s going to set him back.”
Her father nodded solemnly. “I understand completely. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. Harry is an adult, and we must consider his wishes.”
“So we just let them get away with it,” Ginny asked bitterly.
“You did the right thing, Ginny. Knowing when you’re in over your head and seeking help is a sure sign of maturity. I’m very proud of you. Harry has grown accustomed to taking care of himself. I wish it hadn’t needed to be that way, but we can’t change that now. He does seem to confide in you more than any of the others, so that’s what your role should be. Simply be there if he wants to talk.”
Ginny nodded. Harry did allow himself to be vulnerable with her. Her father’s posture was still rigid, as if his entire body was tightly coiled. Something was off. Her mother had always been the volatile one, quick to anger and fiercely defensive of her children. Her dad was more easy-going, often getting carried away with his children’s exploits. He could be deceiving, however, because when he truly did get mad, you’d better pay attention. He showed all the warning signs now.
“What are you going to do?” she asked, slightly fearful.
“Nothing that you need to worry about,” he said, smiling, although the smile didn’t reach his eyes.
“Dad,” she said, alarmed.
“I’ll take care of the Dursleys,” he said with a finality that left her cold.
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