|SIYE Time:2:44 on 22nd July 2017|
These Cuts I Have
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Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use
Story is Complete
Summary: The war has been won, yet the aftershocks continue. The scattered survivors are left to pick up the pieces and find ways to move on. Join the various members of the extended Weasley family as they struggle to rebuild and cope with the consequences. And of course there are still Death Eaters left to find.
Hitcount: Story Total: 80741; Chapter Total: 4178
Awards: View Trophy Room
Many thanks to my awesome beta, Sherylyn who even took time to answer an email on her vacation! This wouldn’t be here without her. Thanks, Sherylyn!
“You have permitted your friends to die for you.”
Harry woke with a gasp, the words ringing in his ears. Sweat rolled down his forehead, and he struggled to untangle himself from the sheets. It took several moments before his heart-rate returned to normal. His hands shook. This had been the second one tonight.
He wished he could get just one full night of sleep. Even a few consecutive hours would be helpful. He was too embarrassed to ask Mr. Weasley if they had any Dreamless Sleep Potion. Giving it up as a lost cause, he sat up and rubbed his bleary eyes. It was still dark outside, but the chirping of birds told Harry that dawn was rapidly approaching.
“Finite,” he mumbled, cancelling the Silencing spell he’d placed around his camp bed. Good thing, too. At least everyone else had a full night’s sleep.
Running a hand through his hair and making it stand on end, he heaved his body from the bed and tiptoed from the room. He knew it was too early to run the shower, so he plodded down the stairs, skipping over the creaky one, and entered the kitchen. He was surprised to find George sitting at the table
George’s bloodshot eyes had deep purple bags beneath them, making them appear bruised. He was gaunt and untidy with no trace of his mischievous personality. He rubbed his hand over the side of his head where his ear should have been.
Harry’s chest constricted, and he fought the urge to flee. He didn’t know why George would want to speak to him, but he owed it to him to let him vent if he so needed. He owed him so much more than he could ever give.
“Morning, George,” he said quietly, his body tensing.
George didn’t move, but he seemed surprised, “Is it morning then?”
Harry suspected he hadn’t been to bed yet. “Yeah. Coffee?” he offered, raising his wand to start a pot.
“I’m all set,” George replied, raising the glass of whatever he was drinking. It didn’t look like coffee.
Harry poured himself a cup and sat down across from George. “Is there anything I can do?” he asked quietly. He refused to ask him if he was all right since it was obvious he wasn’t. Harry had always hated when people had asked him that over and over after Sirius died.
George was silent for a long time, and Harry didn’t think he was going to answer. “No. Maybe. I don’t know. I keep asking him what I should do with the shop,” George eventually replied.
Harry, who only days ago had talked to someone he knew to be dead, wasn’t sure how to respond. “What did he say?” he asked curiously.
“He doesn’t say anything,” George snapped. “It’s only my own reflection. I see him every time I look in a mirror.” George’s voice had grown steadily louder, and Harry feared he’d wake up the house.
Harry couldn’t imagine what it would’ve been like to see Sirius’ face every time he looked in the mirror, particularly when all he’d wanted to do was escape. Fred and George had done a lot for him, and he knew he had to at least try to help.
“The thing about Fred,” he stated slowly, “is that he loved a good laugh. Not only making people laugh, but laughing himself. All my best memories of him involve laughter. I think he’d want you to carry on with the shop.”
Harry knew George probably wasn’t ready to go back to work, but when Harry was having a rough time, he always preferred when someone talked to him straight up rather than dancing around the issue.
“You’re probably right,” George said, his eyes glistening brightly. His voice had lowered considerably. “The thing is… I don’t know if I can do it alone. I’ve never done anything alone.”
Harry felt a flicker of irritation at that comment. He’d give anything to have what George had. “George, you have four other brothers and a sister who all would be willing to help you. Don’t overlook what you still have while focusing on what you’ve lost. He’ll always be with you,” Harry said, his throat tight, remembering Dumbledore’s words. “Those we love never truly leave us.”
“Well, he did leave me,” George said sharply, standing so suddenly his chair tipped over. “He left when that wall exploded, and I should have been there, too. We do everything together… did everything together,” George’s voice cracked as he turned and fled the room.
Harry watched him go, not knowing if he should follow or leave him alone. Once again drawing on personal experience, Harry remained where he was, reckoning George needed some time alone to regain his composure.
That heavy weight was back on Harry’s chest, crushing him. Voldemort’s words from his dream echoed in his skull.
“You have permitted your friends to die for you.”
If only he could have found the diadem a little faster. If he’d just convinced Aberforth to help them a little bit sooner…
Harry jumped up from the table, unable to sit still. Dusky pink light was spreading across the Weasley garden, and Harry needed to fly.
Hermione sat at the kitchen table in The Burrow reading one of her old textbooks and petting a purring Crookshanks on her lap. Harry had mentioned that Professor McGonagall was going to invite all the students who missed their seventh year back to Hogwarts to complete their studies. Hermione hadn’t sat in a class in over a year, and she felt slightly panicked that she was woefully unprepared.
She knew neither Ron nor Harry planned on returning, and she was very disappointed. She’d never been to school without them. Ginny would be there, but it just wasn’t the same. She couldn’t help hoping that her boys would change their minds. She’d never been fully able to convince them of the importance of their education.
The Burrow had been busier this morning that it had been in days. Mrs. Weasley was up and puttering around the kitchen. Although she wasn’t saying much, she was at least there, which Hermione found comforting. The fire suddenly flared, and Mr. Weasley’s face appeared in the flames.
“Molly,” he called. His voice startled Crookshanks, who got up and stretched before sauntering from the room.
“I’m here, Arthur,” Mrs. Weasley replied, kneeling so she could see him clearly.
Hermione felt like she was eavesdropping, but couldn’t move her chair without bumping into Mrs. Weasley.
“Everything all right there?” Mr. Weasley asked, his voice strained.
“We’re all right, Arthur. You do your job,” Mrs. Weasley said listlessly.
Mr. Weasley nodded. “I just wanted to check,” he said.
The fire flared once again, and he was gone. Sniffling, Mrs. Weasley got to her feet and left the room. Hermione sat very still, her insides churning.
Something about seeing the devastation on the faces of Ron’s parents made her think of her own parents. She realized that her own parents had lost a child, too, but weren’t even aware of it. Hermione unexpectedly wanted to see them very badly.
The reality of it hit her hard, and she couldn’t keep the sense of loss at bay any longer. The kitchen suddenly felt too stuffy and confining. Pushing out of her chair and stifling a sob, Hermione fled into the warm summer sunshine.
It didn’t take long for someone to discover her hideaway.
“Hermione! What’s wrong?” Ron asked, poking his head through the trap door on the Weasley family tree house and finding her huddled in the corner with tears streaming down her cheeks. She’d thought she could find a bit of privacy hidden up there, but she’d obviously been mistaken.
Ron climbed into the tree house, hitting his head when he tried to sit up straight and swearing colorfully.
“Language, Ron,” Hermione said, sniffling. She was miserable and wanted to stay that way, but she had to admit, the sight of Ron scrunched over in the confined space he used to play in as a child cheered her a bit.
“Why are you crying? Did Percy upset you?” he demanded.
Hermione’s chest tightened knowing that in different circumstances, it would be the twins rather than Percy that Ron would automatically suspect of upsetting her. Would nothing ever be the same again?
“No, it’s not Percy,” Hermione said, succumbing to tears once more. This time she was derailed by Harry’s head appearing through the trap door.
“What’s wrong with her?” he asked warily. Her tears always brought out Ron’s protective nature, but they made Harry distinctly uncomfortable — another reason she’d sought the solace of the tree house. There was simply no way to be alone at The Burrow.
Harry tried to squeeze into the crowded tree house and nearly slipped back through the trap door before Ron caught him, shifting his position as best he could to make room. Taking a deep breath, he turned his attention back to Hermione.
“Hermione… is it a… a girl thing?” Ron asked, his ears turning red. Harry’s face flushed scarlet, and she was certain he was wishing he had fallen back through the trap door.
“No, it isn’t a girl thing,” Hermione snapped indignantly. “It’s my parents. I haven’t seen them in nearly a year, and they don’t even know I’m missing from their lives.”
Both boys remained silent, blinking through perplexed frowns.
“I know it had to be done, but I was so careful to ensure that Death Eaters wouldn’t be able to find them. I just didn’t consider how hard it would be for me when I wanted to bring them home. I understand your father will try and help, Ron, but it’s just been ages, and we’ve all missed so much,” she said, tears welling up again.
“Then we’ll just have to go look for them ourselves,” Ron replied, grabbing her hand. “Come on, we can do it. We found all those Horcruxes, didn’t we? How hard could a couple of married dentists be?”
Hermione giggled slightly through her sniffles before sobering. “I don’t even know where to begin, and we can’t just Apparate internationally with Muggles. If I remove the Memory Charms I placed on them before we come home… I just don’t know how they’re going to take it.”
“The Ministry is already working on it,” Harry replied quietly.
Two sets of startled eyes turned toward him.
Harry rubbed the back of his neck. “Kingsley and I talked about it when I met with him,” he replied. “I mentioned your parents and the many others who’d fled the country when Voldemort was in charge. I’m certain there were other parents that put Memory Charms on their children to hide them, never mind people who went into hiding like that couple we helped escape from Umbridge — the Cattermoles. He set up a task force to handle the problem, and he’s already got some people in Australia tracking them down.”
“Oh, Harry!” Hermione cried, flinging her arms around him and breaking into sobs. It was so like him just to fix things for everyone without saying a word. It occurred to her that he’d been doing that for a lot of people during all these many funerals.
Harry patted her back awkwardly, his eyes pleading with Ron for help.
“That was really good of you, mate,” Ron said, gently taking Hermione into his own arms. “You see, Hermione. With Kingsley and the Ministry on it, your folks will probably be back within the week. And even if they’re angry at first, you know they’ll forgive you. How could they resist you?”
Harry and Ginny walked hand in hand around the perimeter of the paddock, their broomsticks tossed aside casually in the clearing. They’d had a nice flight in the early evening air, and as the sun started to descend in the sky, decided to take a stroll rather than returning directly to The Burrow.
Harry knew Ginny was giving him the opportunity to talk, and he appreciated the fact she wasn’t pushing him, but letting him do it at his own pace. Surprisingly, he found he wanted to talk to her, he just wasn’t certain how to begin. The task in front of him seemed insurmountable.
Her warm hand fit perfectly in his. As she began to lightly trace her thumb to and fro along the back of his hand, it bolstered his courage.
“I suppose I should start with the prophecy,” he said, his voice sounding a bit shaky even to his own ears.
“The one from the Ministry?” she asked, continuing to rub her thumb along his hand.
“Yeah. The orb was destroyed, but Dumbledore was the one who’d heard it originally, so he told me what it said that night when we returned,” Harry said, his heart thumping wildly in his chest.
Ginny remained silent, though her brow furrowed.
He could recite the words from memory. “‘The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…’”
Even in the waning light, Harry could see Ginny had paled considerably. The grip on his hand tightened.
“So you’ve known since then you’d have to face him,” she said.
“Yeah,” he replied.
He wasn’t certain what he expected, but anger definitely wasn’t it. Ginny’s pale face rapidly colored as her eyes narrowed. “And he told you this right after we returned from the Ministry? What was he thinking?”
Harry shrugged. “He said he knew he should have told me sooner, but he kept putting it off. He didn’t want to tell me. I was angry about that at first, but now I can kind of understand it. I didn’t want to tell you… I didn’t want to tell anybody.”
“But you did, right? Please tell me you didn’t handle this on your own?” Ginny said, searching his eyes. They’d stopped walking and were standing beneath the big oak tree that had once shielded them from the rain.
“I told Ron and Hermione after I came to The Burrow,” he said.
Ginny’s lips thinned, and her ears were scarlet — a sure sign of trouble in a Weasley. “So he laid all that on you right after losing Sirius and then sent you back to the Dursleys?” she demanded.
Harry nodded. “It was upsetting at the time, but it all worked out. I… er… I didn’t handle it so well at first.”
He could tell she wanted to say more but managed to hold her tongue.
“I nearly destroyed Dumbledore’s office, broke a bunch of his probably priceless things, so it wasn’t like he didn’t know I was upset. Some of the portraits in his office still scowl at me.”
Her lips twitched. “Did you really? Good!”
Harry grinned, oddly pleased.
Ginny tugged on his hand, bringing him to sit beneath the tree, their hands still clasped together. The sky grew dusky, the sun casting the last of its light between the trees. Their shoulders rested against each other, and Harry let his head fall back before continuing.
“During my sixth year, I started having private lessons with Dumbledore. He told me all about Riddle’s past and his time at Hogwarts. His history, you know?”
“That must have been fascinating,” Ginny said, her face shadowed. Harry wondered if she was thinking about the Riddle she knew.
“It was interesting, but I was impatient. I couldn’t understand how all that information was going to help me to… well… to kill him.” The pressure on Harry’s chest grew painfully heavy again, and he shifted his position.
Ginny put her hands on his shoulders and pulled back gently but insistently until his head was lying in her lap. He felt rather ridiculous until she started running her fingers through his hair and gently massaging his scalp. That felt wonderful, and he shut his eyes, hoping she wouldn’t stop.
“I was sort of disappointed,” he said. “I thought he was going to teach me some advanced Defensive spells or powerful curses or something.”
“He knew you weren’t going to defeat him with a battle of magical might. You would defeat him with your heart,” Ginny said quietly.
Harry’s eyes flew open and he stared up at her, stunned. “That’s what he always said, that my ‘power he knows not’ was love. I used to want to hit him.”
“I bet you did,” Ginny said, giggling.
Stars had begun to twinkle in the darkening sky, but the glow of the rising moon enabled him to clearly see the sparkle in her eyes.
“This is when we started talking about Horcruxes,” Harry said. “But there’s one more thing you have to know about first. Occlumency.”
Ginny nodded. “I remember when Snape came to Grimmauld Place to tell you about it. That’s when he and Sirius almost hexed each other, wasn’t it?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Harry nodded, a smattering of memories replaying in his mind.
“My dad still wasn’t at full health, but I remember when we walked in that kitchen and saw the two of them with their wands drawn and you in between them trying to force them apart. I was worried my dad would put himself back in hospital, he was so angry. He doesn’t get angry that often, but when he does, you’d best watch out,” Ginny said.
“I don’t remember your dad being angry,” Harry said, although he supposed he was more focused on Sirius at the time.
“Oh, he wouldn’t have said anything in front of you, but I know he didn’t like them putting you in danger. He let Sirius have it after you’d gone upstairs. Said he was going to talk to Snape, as well, but I didn’t get to hear that conversation,” Ginny replied.
Harry felt warm inside, and exceedingly fond of Mr. Weasley. “How did you hear the one with Sirius?” he asked, genuinely curious.
“With an Extendable Ear, of course,” Ginny replied as if he were dense.
“Maybe that’s why Snape was so angry when I turned up for my first Occlumency lesson,” Harry said. “Then again, he was always angry with anything to do with me.”
“He really was terribly unfair to you,” Ginny said, still running her fingers in his hair.
“There were more reasons than I understood at the time, but we’ll get there,” Harry said. His thoughts about Snape were still very confusing.
“So Occlumency didn’t go well, then?” Ginny asked, prompting him to continue.
Harry shook his head. “Not by a long shot. The lessons were a disaster. Dumbledore wanted me to learn to block my mind, to block the connection between Voldemort and me. He was afraid Voldemort would try and lure me to the Ministry with a false vision.”
Ginny’s eyes opened wide. “And that’s what happened, too… isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Harry said painfully. He wrapped his arms around himself, beginning to feel the night’s chill. Talking about what happened to Sirius could still make him feel very uncomfortable.
Ginny seemed to understand this. She placed a comforting hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently.
“So you didn’t learn to block him, then?” she asked gently.
Harry shook his head,” No, the connection was still there, although it didn’t bother me much during my sixth year. Dumbledore suspected he was trying to block me now that he was aware of our connection.”
Harry sat up abruptly, facing away from her. “He possessed me that night at the Ministry. He wanted Dumbledore to kill me while trying to kill him.”
Harry felt Ginny stiffen behind him as she drew a sharp breath.
“It hurt more than anything I can ever remember, even worse than the Cruciatus, but Dumbledore thought it hurt Voldemort, too. That’s important to remember, but we’ll come back to that,” Harry said, beginning to speak very fast. His heart was hammering, and a light sweat broke out along his brow despite the dropping temperature.
“It’s okay, Harry,” Ginny said, rubbing his back. “Breathe. It’s dark, so we should probably go inside before Mum begins to worry. We can talk more tomorrow.”
Harry knew she wanted more information, but he was eternally grateful to her for letting him stop. He didn’t know what was wrong with him, but his eyes were burning and his throat felt painfully raw. He was afraid if he had to keep talking he might start crying, and that just wouldn’t do. Harry had learned at a very early age to hide his tears, and he wasn’t about to expose them now. He didn’t know why he was getting so upset. This had all happened long ago. He began to think there was something seriously wrong with him.
Ginny kissed him on the side of his neck beneath his ear, blazing a trail of light kisses along the base. Her tongue darted out as she reached his throat, and all thoughts of Horcruxes fled his mind as a delicious tingle worked its way down his spine. He tilted his head to the side to give her better access. All the tension drained from his body, and he felt as if he were turning into a ball of mush.
“Ginny,” he breathed, afraid to move, afraid she would stop.
She shifted her positon so she was sitting in front of him, although she never stopped her attention to his neck.
The darkness continued to descend, but they didn’t really notice for quite some time.
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