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SIYE Time:2:22 on 25th September 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: 84997; Chapter Total: 3247
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Special kudos to Ryan for inspiration in Arthurís words. I got stuck on this chapter, and after a long talk with Ryan, I had renewed direction. Thanks, Ryan! Itís not Mrs. Black, but I hope this will haunt Petunia more!

I had a few questions on Susan Bones last chapter. Just thought Iíd let you all know that I have an unreasonable, irrational dislike for the character that comes more from fanfic than canon, but there you go! We all have our quirks, and Susan Bones is mine!




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Chapter Twenty-two
Warnings



H arry felt as if a Hippogriff was sitting on his chest. He sat in the training classroom learning about counter-jinxes, but he was having trouble focusing. He’d woken up feeling wretched that morning. He was congested and achy, and for some reason, taking a deep breath was difficult. He’d been feeling run down recently, but today, whatever illness he was fighting off had ratcheted up a notch.

He supposed it was time to ask Mrs. Weasley for some Pepper-Up Potion. He’d been avoiding it up until now, but he thought he couldn’t put it off any longer.

Ron kicked the back of his chair, startling him. He looked up to find Instructor Pierce staring at him expectantly.

“Well?” he asked.

“Er,” Harry said blankly.

“Apparently, Mr. Potter has better things on his mind than paying attention in class,” Pierce said, causing Harry’s cheeks to flame. “I don’t appreciate being forced to repeat myself. I said, what would you do if you were confronting a suspect in a heavily-populated Muggle area?”

“Use the Muggle-Repelling Charm if there’s time, so the Muggles won’t notice what’s going on. If there’s not time, or if someone approaches after the fact, you can try a Memory Charm,” Harry replied, thankful he knew the answer. This was another of the protection spells they’d used on their campsite.

“And what is the incantation for the Muggle-Repelling Charm?” Inspector Pierce asked.

“Repello Muggletom,” Harry answered promptly.

Inspector Pierce nodded, his blue eyes widening slightly. “Of course, it’s always best to wait for an Obliviator from the Ministry to handle the Muggles, if you’re able.”

There was a knock at the door, and Inspector Pierce stepped outside.

“How did you know that?” Lisa Turpin demanded, flipping through her text. “He didn’t cover the Incantation.”

Harry shrugged. “Had to use it before,” he replied.

“Good thing you knew the answer,” Ron said. “What’s wrong with you today? You seem really out of it.”

“Who are you to talk?” Harry said indignantly. Ron had regularly slept through their History of Magic class back at Hogwarts.

“I could’ve answered that one,” Cormac said. “Always good to know how to cover in front of Muggles.”

“All right,” Inspector Pierce said, returning to the room. “Our next phase of this training involves going out into the field.”

“What? On a real raid? Wicked!” Duncan Tate said excitedly.

Harry’s own interest perked. He hated spending so much time in the classroom. Still, it seemed rather soon to let them in on anything important. He knew the Aurors were diminished after the battle. Perhaps they’d got a lead on some of the missing Death Eaters.

“You will be going out as observers only, boys and girls,” Inspector Pierce stressed. “Each of you will be assigned a trained Auror, and where they go, you go. You will obey your assigned Auror without question. Am I clear?”

All of them had straightened in their chairs, muttering eager agreement. Even Rory MacDonald, who had looked particularly bored over the past several days, appeared excited.

Instructor Pierce moved around the room, putting a piece of paper face down on each of their desks. “Each of the Aurors to whom you’ve been randomly assigned is on this paper. The Auror Division is on level two. I want you to go up and introduce yourselves. There is a raid about to happen in Greenwich. You are to follow your Auror’s instructions to the letter.”

Greenwich? That was where Harry and Ginny had spotted Rabastan Lestrange. Could this be him? Had they found him? Harry eagerly turned over his paper and his heart sank as he recognized the name.

“I’ve got a bloke named Quentin Williamson,” Ron said. “How about you?”

“John Dawlish,” Harry replied dully.

“Dawlish?” Ron squawked. “Isn’t he the one Dumbledore—”

“Yep,” Harry said, sighing. Just once, couldn’t his path be smooth? Dawlish was the Auror Dumbledore had to Stun while making his escape during Harry’s fifth year. As he remembered, Dawlish was a by-the-book fellow, and very loyal to Fudge.

“Shall we head up then?” Ron asked. His sympathy for Harry’s plight obviously paled in comparison with meeting his own assigned Auror.

“Owen Savage,” Susan Bones said. “Oh, my Auntie used to talk about him all the time,” Susan Bones said, reading her card.

Ron’s face scrunched up as he silently mimicked her saying, “Auntie.”

“What are you waiting for?” Instructor Pierce said. “This is a raid, people. Move!”

The sound of scraping chairs filled the classroom as everyone stood and quickly gathered their belongings. They hurried along the corridor and crowded into the lift. Harry was smooshed between Ron and Violet Benson. He tried not to move so as not to bump into Violet’s prominent features. He really didn’t know where to look.

“Ooh, cozy,” Violet said, pressing herself more closely into Harry. She wore a V-cut black shirt, and Harry concentrated fully on keeping his eyes facing upward.

“Isn’t this exciting?” Lisa said. “I didn’t think they were going to let us in the field for several weeks yet.”

“Yeah, but only as observers,” Rory said, disgustedly. “If we’re lucky, we’ll see some real action, and they’ll have no choice but to use us.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” Harry said quietly.

“Oh, excuse us, Potter. The rest of us aren’t as jaded yet,” Rory said derisively.

“Back off,” Ron snarled. “After you defeat a few Dark Wizards, then you can talk. For now, keep your mouth shut.”

“Yeah, and exactly who have you defeated, Weasley?” Rory asked scornfully.

“Oh, stuff it, boys,” Violet said, once again pressing herself closer to Harry. “You’ll all get the chance to prove how overflowing with testosterone you are.”

Susan and Lisa giggled behind her.

Harry was thankful when the lift doors opened, and he could make his escape. He hurried towards Auror headquarters, Ron on his heels. The department was bustling with activity, but all heads turned when the students burst in. Harry scanned the desk looking for the name he was seeking. He found the nameplate in the third row of desks. John Dawlish sat there, eyeing him closely.

He walked up to the desk and held out his hand. “Harry Potter,” he said, thinking it best to start off fresh.

“I know who you are,” Dawlish said insolently, unmoving. “Everyone knows who you are.”

Harry remained silent, dropping his hand. What did Dawlish expect him to say?

“Let’s be clear. You are a rookie. You will do exactly what I say, no matter what happens,” he said scornfully. “If I say to run, you will run. If I say to hide, you will hide. If I tell you to cast an Immobilizing spell, you will cast an Immobilizing spell.” Harry was forcefully reminded of a similar speech Professor Dumbledore gave him one cold night long ago. Nothing then had gone according to plan.

“There will be no heroics, I can’t even tell you the amount of paperwork I’ll be forced to fill out if you get killed. You are to follow orders,” Dawlish said, shaking his head.

“Yes, sir,” Harry replied.

“We’re following a lead out in Greenwich. A former Death Eater was spotted there, and we’ve traced his signature to a certain area, so we’re conducting a search. We’re not expecting it to pan out, but there’s always a chance, and you must remain on guard. You are to stay behind me at all times. Is that clear?” Dawlish asked, making no secret of his aversion to taking a trainee with him, particularly Harry Potter.

“Harry Potter!” a jovial wizard with a thick black moustache called out as he approached. Duncan Tate was standing beside him. “We’ve heard you’d joined our squad. Is it true you play Quidditch?” the wizard asked.

Harry cocked his head quizzically. “Er… yeah. I played Seeker on the Gryffindor House team,” he said.

“Youngest Seeker in a century,” Ron added helpfully from the next desk over.

“Hans Rickman,” the wizard said, offering his hand, which Harry shook. “I’m a Beater on the Auror inter-department team. We’re in need of a Seeker, and we heard you played.”

Harry nodded, the pain in his chest forgotten as excitement burst within him.

“We’re meeting on Friday night in Opachinski Glen. Join us there if you’re interested,” he said.

Harry had no idea where Opachinski Glen was, but he’d find out.

“D’you need a Keeper?” Ron asked eagerly.

Rickman looked him up and down appraisingly. “You come, too. We’ll see how you play,” he said as he strolled out of the room, Duncan on his heels. He gave each of them a thumbs-up as he passed.

Before Ron had a chance to celebrate, Dawlish interrupted. “Now that all the socialization is out of the way, are we going to get any work done today?”

“Let’s go,” someone shouted, and they moved as a group towards the Apparition center in the Atrium.

“You hold my arm, I’ll lead you there,” Dawlish said, sounding as if there was nothing he loathed more than the idea of Harry touching him.

Harry squashed his own annoyance and took Dawlish’s arm, a moment later arriving near the Royal Garden where he’d taken Ginny on their date. They’d appeared in four separate groups. He could see the clusters of the others across the garden. Ron wasn’t in Harry’s group, but Rory MacDonald was. Of all his classmates, Rory was Harry’s least favorite. He found the dark-haired wizard to be rather lazy and manipulative. He’d seen him getting Lisa Turpin to do a lot of his assignments for him, and then ignoring her once the work was done.

“There is an abandoned warehouse two blocks up. It’s been warded, but the Ministry has dismantled many of them,” a tall, sandy-haired wizard who seemed to be in charge of Harry’s group said. “We’re going in four groups on each side. This is reconnaissance only. We’re not entirely certain there is anything there, but we want to search the premises. The building is empty at the moment, but if any hostiles arrive, both of you rookies are to remain under cover and observe only.” He nodded at Harry and Rory as he spoke.

Dawlish glared at Harry as if he’d argued the point. The direction in which they were headed wasn’t far from the sweet shop where he’d seen Rabastan Lestrange. Perhaps they’d finally get a solid lead. Someone had to be harboring these Death Eaters.

Harry followed Dawlish on one side of the street while Rory and his Auror, the leader of their group, took the other. The warehouse came into view once they rounded a corner. It was dark with boarded windows and a look of decay. Harry didn’t think they would have to do any Muggle-Repelling Charms. Who’d want to go in, anyway? The roof appeared ready to collapse.

Harry’s group took the left side of the warehouse. They spread out and tested for any wards, but found none. There wasn’t an Anti-Apparition Jinx applied, either.

“Savage’s group is entering through the front first,” Dawlish said gruffly. “We’ll go in after. The other two groups are entering from the rear.”

Harry nodded, his eyes alert and intent. His adrenaline was simmering, but hadn’t exploded. Nothing about this was screaming danger to Harry. His instincts were telling him they wouldn’t find anything, but he didn’t think Dawlish would be interested in Harry’s instincts.

Harry wasn’t certain about them himself.

The warehouse was dark and empty with the musty smell of disuse. He followed Dawlish, looking for any sign someone had been there. Glancing at the floor, he noticed a powdery substance against one wall beneath a blacked-out window. Before he could point it out to Dawlish, however, a shout rang out from across the warehouse.

Harry crouched immediately, pressing his back against the wall.

A streak of red shot across the air, bursting against the ceiling in a shower of sparks. Rory moved to stand but his Auror’s hand shot out and pulled him back down.

“Don’t move,” Dawlish hissed.

Harry hadn’t intended to. He could hear shouting from the other end of the warehouse, but it was too black to see. The shouting sounded more angry than panicked, “Wand down, first-year!”

“I knew bringing trainees along was a foolish idea,” Dawlish grumbled. “There’s no one here.”

“How can you be certain?” Rory asked.

“Simple Detection Spell,” the sandy-haired Auror answered. “I cast it as soon as we’d entered.”

“At least one wizard has been here, though,” Harry said.

“How do you know that?” Dawlish asked scornfully. “Something else only you can detect?”

Harry grit his teeth in irritation. Dawlish had at least some knowledge of Harry’s connection to Voldemort. “No,” he said as evenly as he could, “but there’s potion residue on the floor over there.”

“Where?” the sandy-haired wizard asked sharply.

Harry pointed to the powdery substance he’d seen upon entering. Dawlish glared at Harry while the other Auror pulled on his gloves and collected a sample.

Auror Savage approached them from the other side of the warehouse. “We’re all clear,” he said. “One of the trainees was startled. What have you got?”

“Potion residue,” Dawlish answered through clenched teeth.

“Good find. I’ll have the other groups on my side search for more of the same,” Savage said.

Dawlish nodded.

“Potter was the one who actually spotted it,” the sandy-haired Auror spoke quietly.

Savage turned to Harry, nodding. “Then perhaps bringing the trainees along wasn’t such a bad idea after all,” he said before walking back into the blackness.


*****


Harry and Ginny sat on the floor in Andromeda Tonks’ sitting room with Teddy lying on a blanket between them. Andromeda had gone out to lunch with her sister, and Harry and Ginny volunteered to child-mind while she was out. Harry used his wand to hover various small toys above the baby, and he was gleefully batting at them. He shrieked occasionally which would cause Harry to chuckle.

Ginny thought Harry was as adorable as the baby was.

“So tell me again what happened at that warehouse yesterday,” Ginny said.

“Not much to tell,” Harry said, shrugging. “It was empty except for some potion residue. The Ministry is testing it to see if they can decipher any of the ingredients, or what kind of potion it was.”

Using his wand, he lowered one stuffed dragon low enough for Teddy to reach. The baby stretched out and grasped the green dragon and immediately brought it to his mouth.

“You aren’t supposed to eat the dragons,” Harry said, grinning broadly. Ginny was vividly reminded of a dark-haired youth who’d run amok in her back garden with her brothers.

Teddy continued to chew.

“You’d better not let my brother Charlie see you doing that, Teddy. He takes his dragons very seriously,” Ginny told the baby. She was glad Teddy had Harry. Hopefully it would make his life easier than Harry’s had been.

Teddy removed the dragon from his mouth and squawked before stuffing it back again.

“There was a bit of drama when Susan Bones thought something was moving towards her and fired a Stunner. Her Auror wasn’t happy about it since he hadn’t told her to use a spell. I can’t say as I blame her, though. I think I’d have fired off a Stunner if I saw something coming at me, too,” Harry said fairly.

“So she cast at nothing then?” Ginny asked.

“There was a stray cat, but she fired too high. Auror Savage did a Homenum revelio spell, but it was just a cat,” Harry replied.

“I can’t believe they had you out in the field already. It seems really soon to me,” Ginny said.

“I hope they let us go again. I get bored in the classroom,” he admitted sheepishly.

“I can understand that. You’re not so good at sitting still,” she said wryly.

She picked up Teddy and placed him back down on his stomach. He stopped chewing the dragon and pushed up slightly on his arms, looking around.

“Hey, you’re getting good at that,” Harry said, obviously pleased. “He couldn’t do that the last time I saw him.”

A small, house-elf emerged from the kitchen, glancing back and forth at the small group in the sitting room.

“Master Harry,” he said with a deep, croaky voice. He bowed low in front of Harry.

“Kreacher!” Harry said, sounding delighted. “How are you?”

“Kreacher is well, Master Harry. He is taking good care of Master Teddy, and Mistress Andromeda. Kreacher is serving the Noble House of Black well,” he answered.

“Yes, you are, Kreacher, but you need a break, too. Ginny and I are going to watch Teddy for a while. You go on and have some rest while you have the chance,” Harry said.

Kreacher looked as if he were about to protest, but before he could open his mouth, Harry said, “I bet you haven’t had any time to shine your locket.”

Kreacher’s eyes widened, and he bowed. “Thank you, Master Harry. Kreacher will go and give it a good shine,” he said before disappearing.

Ginny stared at Harry incredulously.

“I gave him the fake locket. It makes him happy,” he said, shrugging.

“Master Harry?” she asked, delighted. She couldn’t resist teasing him just a little.

She got her desired result when two high points of color stained Harry’s cheeks. He picked up Teddy, ducking his head. Teddy reached for his glasses.

“It’s just how Kreacher talks,” he mumbled, continuing to dodge Teddy’s attempts at snatching his glasses.

“I can’t believe Hermione has let you keep him this long. I reckoned she would’ve demanded you free him by now,” she said, trying to distract Teddy with the stuffed Clipper Ship they’d bought him in Greenwich.

“Oh, she’s tried. Kreacher will have none of it, and I just don’t see the point in getting him so upset. He’s happy here, and Andromeda needs some help,” Harry replied.

Teddy launched his pudgy hand at Harry’s face and finally managed to grasp his glasses. He squealed and waved them in the air excitedly.

“Hey, you know I can’t see without those,” Harry laughed, gently prying his godson’s fingers off the rim.

They were hopelessly smudged, but Harry quickly used a spell to clean them. Unhappy with losing his treasure, Teddy began to fuss.

“Andromeda left some bottles in the kitchen. I’ll go grab one,” Harry said, pulling himself to his feet.

Ginny stared at him as he left the room, noticing for the first time that he looked quite tired and pale. She picked up Teddy, rocking him back and forth and making soothing sounds. Teddy quieted, staring curiously at Ginny’s face. He scrunched up his face and his hair turned a vivid red. She grinned as he squirmed. Harry handed her the bottle when he returned to the room. Teddy began greedily sucking, as Ginny sank into a rocking chair, smiling at him.

“Do you feel all right?” she asked. “You look rather peaked.”

Harry shrugged and glanced away.

“Say anything but fine,” Ginny said in a singsong voice. She’d been working on getting him to at least acknowledge if something was bothering him, and she’d banned ‘fine’ from his vocabulary.

Harry grinned sheepishly. “I think I’ve got a bit of a chest cold. I meant to ask your mum for some Pepper-Up Potion yesterday, but I forgot after all the excitement,” he admitted.

That was definitely progress.

“I’ll be sure to give you some when we go home,” she said. “It’s not your scar, is it?”

The bruise on his chest had finally faded, but the lightning-bolt-shaped scar over his heart would always remain.

“No, it feels tight over my whole chest. More on the inside,” he said. “Hurts if I take a deep breath.”

“Why don’t you go see the Mediwitch at the Ministry? That’s what she’s there for, you know,” Ginny said reasonably.

Harry shrugged. “It’s just a cold.”

Well, he’d at least he’d told her the problem. She couldn’t expect him to change the habits of a lifetime overnight. “Well, see her if it gets worse then.”

Harry looked down at Teddy, watching him eat. A faraway, wistful expression crossed his features, making him appear rather sad.

“What are you thinking right now?” she asked.

“I wish he could’ve had some time with his parents. I at least had a year, even if I don’t remember it, before I went to live on Privet Drive. I wish he could’ve had that, too. I wish Remus and Tonks could’ve had some time with him,” Harry said softly.

“I wish that, too, but we’ll just have to tell him about them,” Ginny said, sighing.

Some things that happened during the war simply couldn’t be fixed no matter how hard they tried.

Her heart ached for what had happened to the Lupin family. It was so terribly tragic and unfair, the same as it had been for the Potter family during the first war.

In the stories she’d read and had been told, Harry has always been described as a baby. She’d tended to think of him as an infant like Teddy rather than a small child. Someone able to toddle and speak a few words — and very aware of whom he lived with… and who was missing.

Ginny’s throat ached, and she ducked her head so Harry wouldn’t see her distress. She suspected Teddy would always have a hole in his heart where his parents were supposed to be, but she hoped she and Harry could make that hole at least smaller than the one in Harry’s.


*****


Ron and his brothers Apparated to Arabella Figg’s back garden just after nightfall. Their dad had gone on ahead to speak with the Squib woman so she wouldn’t be alarmed. He was waiting when the others arrived, all dressed in black robes. Bill had suggested wearing robes because it would make the Dursleys uncomfortable. He said they no longer had to acquiesce to the family’s demands for “normalcy.” They’d earned some discomfort. It made it imperative that no other Muggles see them, however, hence the reason for waiting until nightfall.

Ron suggested using a Disillusionment Charm for the walk to Privet Drive, and he was excited to get to use it for real after practicing all week in class.

“All right, boys?” their dad asked.

Ron, Bill and George all nodded affirmatively.

“I’m going to stress this once again — there is to be no magic used against the Dursleys. No matter what they say, or do, magic will only cause trouble for us, and for Harry,” Dad said solemnly. “You must control your tempers.”

“Yeah, no magic,” Ron agreed, “but if they really tick you off, the Ministry won’t register a punch in the nose.”

“Or a kick in the balls,” George muttered darkly.

“Boys,” Dad said, frowning.

“It’s true, Dad,” Bill said, smirking. “The Ministry cannot detect either punches to the nose nor kicks to the balls.”

Their father turned around and began walking, but not before Ron saw his lips twitch. Ron reached into his pocket, his hand skimming over the first object, the object Hermione had secretly helped him to charm, and came to rest on the second. He pulled out his Deluminator and proceeded to turn out all the street lamps as he walked.

“Impressive,” George said.

“Dumbledore’s,” Ron replied.

When they reached number four, Privet Drive, the house was lit from within, but silent. Ron could hear the faint buzz of insects in the warm, summer air, but no other sound.

“Are we ready?” Bill asked.

“Let’s do this,” George replied.

Their dad went first, the three brothers flanking him. They stood silently on the doorstep as Dad rang the bell.

“I’ll get it, Petunia,” a gruff voice bellowed behind the door. “Can’t imagine who’d be calling at this late hour.”

The door swung open and Vernon Dursley, his large belly stuck out as he tried to look intimidating, stood in the doorway. The appearance of four robed figures stunned him for a moment, and he just stared at them blankly. Reality caught up with him as color rose in his face. He quickly turned an alarming shade of puce.

“Oh, no. We’re done with you lot,” he said, trying to shut the door.

Silently, Bill’s arm shot out to halt the progress.

“We have some matters to discuss,” their dad said. “We can do it inside quietly, or out here shouting for all your neighbors to hear. The choice is yours.”

Vernon’s eyes wildly glanced at the neighboring houses. A shade twitched in number six. Apparently, it was the deciding factor. Vernon pulled the door open wide and gestured them inside with a nod of his head, his lips pursed in anger. Once they were in the house, he shut the door with a snap.

“What is this about? I don’t want your kind in my house. We no longer have anything to do with your freakishness,” Vernon bellowed. “I’m already having trouble with work after you disrupted our lives for over a year. What more do you want?”

Petunia Dursley poked her head out the kitchen door. She raised her bony hand to her throat upon spotting the four wizards. “We were told the war was over. What do you want? The boy is not coming back here,” she hissed.

“Back here?” Vernon repeated, shouting. “Absolutely not. I won’t have it.”

Ron wondered if his dad was ever going to have the chance to speak. No wonder Harry frequently burst with frustration. These two were already giving him a headache, and he’d barely stepped inside the door. He glanced past his father to the closed cupboard door. It had been repaired since Harry’s rampage. Ron clenched his fists tightly, determined to see this through properly.

Dad slowly removed his wand from his pocket and gestured toward the kitchen. “I suggest you take a seat,” he said firmly.

That shut the Dursleys up.

Vernon took a step back, warily keeping his eye on the wand. He scurried past Dad, leaving as much space as possible between him and the wizards. Petunia ducked back into the kitchen where she and her husband sat down at the kitchen table. Dad took the chair opposite Vernon, and Petunia shifted her chair closer to her husband. She crossed her arms in front of her chest, her horse-like face pinched as she glared. Ron, Bill and George all stood menacingly behind their father, remaining silent.

Ron crossed his arms and glared back, mimicking Petunia’s pose. George and Bill followed suit.

Their father placed his wand on the table in front of him with a firm clicking sound. Vernon and Petunia both flinched, their faces wary. Dad simply stared.

“What is this about?” Vernon finally demanded, apparently unable to bear the silence any longer.

“We want to talk to you about your nephew,” Dad said quietly.

“What about him?” Vernon sneered.

“I’m going to be very clear,” Dad said, choosing his words carefully. He rolled his wand on the table, and it sounded very loud in the silent kitchen.

Both Dursleys’ eyes followed every move of the wand.

“The way you treated Harry was deplorable and inhumane,” Dad said, his pale blue eyes looking icy. “I’m astonished you would ever find it acceptable to treat a child this way.”

“How I choose to treat my family is no concern of yours,” Vernon said, blustering.

“Are you saying that you treat your own son the same way as you treated Harry? Because if you do, I think the Muggle authorities might be interested in some of your practices. They tend to frown upon child abuse,” Dad said in a quiet, deadly voice.

The hairs on Ron’s arms stood on end as if chilled.

“Don’t you threaten me,” Vernon said, scowling.

The vein on his forehead throbbed so prominently Ron was mesmerized. He wondered how far the man could be pushed before it would simply burst.

“We would never abuse Dudley,” Petunia said, scandalized.

“So you feed him regularly, then? Give him proper clothing, and a place to sleep? Treat him as part of your family? Offer comfort when he needs it? Or encouragement when he’s down?” Dad demanded coldly. “Because you did none of these things for your nephew. Abuse can be more than just physical, although I wonder if you’re as free with your hands with Dudley as you were with Harry.”

“You can’t believe anything that little liar says,” Vernon said, although a thin line of sweat was slowly running down the side of his face.

Ron clenched his fists to keep himself from drawing his wand, but it was a struggle. It helped to see both George and Bill shifting, as well. Bill’s leg was twitching as it always did when he was agitated.

Dad’s eyes narrowed.

“We took him in and provided for him out of the goodness of our hearts. He was an unwanted burden, but we kept him,” Petunia snapped.

“And you never let him forget you saw him as a burden, did you?” Dad asked, seething.

Petunia’s lips thinned, and she turned her face away, staring determinedly at the sink.
“Tell me, had the situation been reversed, and it had been the two of you who were killed, do you believe your sister would’ve taken Dudley in?” Dad asked coldly.

“We weren’t involved with your crowd. Our lives weren’t in any danger until he came to live here,” a furious Petunia hissed.

“Muggles die in car accidents all the time. Isn’t that how you told Harry his parents died? You couldn’t even give your sister the courtesy of telling her only child about her. The child she died to protect,” Dad said in a quiet, deadly voice. “Do you really think she would’ve treated your son the same? Because I think she would’ve brought him into her family and treated him as an equal. It’s what a family should’ve done.”

“Don’t you dare tell me what I should’ve done! You know nothing about my family,” Petunia spat.

“No, I don’t. But I do know your nephew, and he’d make any parent proud. I’m a father myself, and I had two kids who set off explosives in their room on a regular basis, yet I never put bars on their windows, locked them in a cupboard, or threatened them with near starvation,” Dad said, his voice rising with every word.

His wand rattled on the table menacingly.

Ron tensed, wondering if he were the one who would have to hold his father back. He’d never seen his dad this angry. He was downright scary.

Vernon exploded, “How we chose to discipline—”

“It wasn’t discipline, it was cruelty and neglect,” Dad interrupted. He turned back to Petunia. “Harry is as much a grandson to your mother as Dudley is. Tell me, Mrs. Dursley, would she be proud of the way you treated him?”

Petunia paled considerably, turning her face away.

“As I said at the beginning, how you treated Harry was never okay. It’s the goodness of his heart that doesn’t want to see you punished now. It’s not what I would choose. I want you to know, however, that just because Harry no longer resides here, doesn’t mean your life will ever be free of wizards,” Dad said threateningly.

“What do you mean?” Vernon said, alarmed. His eyebrows shot nearly to his hairline.

“It means… I’m going to watch,” Dad whispered ominously.

Both Dursleys watched him warily, as if finally comprehending the danger they were in. Dad pushed his chair back and stood.

Ron quietly left the kitchen without garnering any attention. He walked into the hallway and opened the door to the cupboard under the stairs. Taking Hermione’s small beaded handbag from his pocket, he reached inside and pulled out a small portrait. He placed it on the back wall of the cupboard and stepped back.

He stared at a portrait of Harry as a child, sleeping. The small boy would turn and roll in his sleep occasionally. Ron had taken one of the wizarding photos and brought it to an artist to have it made. Hermione put a spell on it to make it attach to the wall with a permanent sticking charm. It would forever stay there to taunt Harry’s Aunt Petunia about the way she’d treated her nephew.

Hermione had said that Harry’s Aunt Petunia would never be able to walk by the cupboard without checking if the portrait was still there. She’d be on edge that someone would discover it, and her straining ears would always be listening for sounds. The fact that portrait was in there would gnaw at her more than actually keeping Harry inside had ever done.

Bitch.

Ron hoped one day she’d feel the shame she truly deserved.



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