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SIYE Time:22:56 on 27th May 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: 474
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: 76764; Chapter Total: 3487
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Many thanks to my wonderful beta, Sherylyn for her awesome editing skills. I think this chapter ended up being my favorite, so Im eager to hear your thoughts.




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Chapter Eight
Nightmares



“ You have allowed your friends to die for you,” Voldemort’s taunting voice echoed through the forest, bouncing off the trees.

The forest was still, ominously so. The quiet was unnatural.

Harry couldn’t find which way to go. He’d been on the path leading to Voldemort, but he’d taken a wrong turn and was now hopelessly lost. He ran through the trees and undergrowth, feeling the briars tearing at his legs. He had to get there. He had to stop this. He was the only one who could.

As he rounded a corner, he found Ron laying spread-eagle on the ground, his eyes staring lifelessly up at the night sky.

“Noo,” Harry moaned. Not Ron. Ron wasn’t supposed to die. Harry’s heart clenched, but he had to move. He couldn’t stop for Ron. There wasn’t time.

He turned to run, but stumbled to the ground. He had to reach Voldemort. He had to stop this. Scrambling to his feet, he pushed the brush out of his way. He had to meet Voldemort. It was the only way.

Professor Dumbledore had lied. Harry wasn’t meant to survive.

“You can’t outrun me. I’m inside you. I’m part of you,” the words rang in his skull. He clawed frantically at his own skin, desperate to rid himself of the soul he was harboring.

The forest got thicker and thicker, impeding his movement, trapping him, holding him. He yanked with all his might, pushing his body into a clearing.

Hermione was there, hanging from a tree, twisting slowly, slowly in the breeze.
“Noo,” Harry moaned. Not this. Never this.

He turned and ran in another direction, unable to bear the sight. This wasn’t happening. He didn’t want this.

Around a corner, Fred and George, dead.

His legs couldn’t move fast enough. He only had one hour. He had to go. They were depending on him.

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, dead.

A desperate, keening whine escaped Harry’s lips. He couldn’t breathe. He wasn’t going to make it.

He turned and tried another direction.

“I shall find you, and I shall punish every last man, woman, and child who has tried to conceal you from me.”

Panting, he tried to move up a hill. His legs wouldn’t cooperate. He wasn’t going to make it. He needed more time.

Ginny, dead.

“Nooo,” he cried, bile rising in his throat. “Please, no.”

Remus and Tonks, dead.

In every direction, another body would appear. Bill. Neville. Colin. Charlie.

“I’m part of you, Harry. You did this. It’s all your fault, and forever will be. You have allowed your friends to die for you.”



Harry awoke with a gasp, panting and drenched in sweat. His eyes darted wildly as he looked around the room, seeking the hidden threat.

His heart felt as if it would burst from his chest. His throat was raw from screaming, and he was immensely glad he’d cast a Silencing Charm before falling asleep. His stomach roiled, and he felt a lump form in his throat. Try as he might, he couldn’t stop it. He leaned over the side of the bed and retched.

When his stomach was empty, he shakily picked up his wand off the night table. Pointing at the mess, he whispered, “Scourgify.”

He collapsed back on the bed, a small whimper escaping. Traitorous moisture filled his eyes, but he refused to allow it release. Instead, he clenched his eyes shut and concentrated on slowing his breathing.

Once he felt he could keep his legs under him, he got up and quickly left the room. He desperately wanted a shower. As he reached the bathroom door, however, he realized it was only just past dawn. It was much too early to cause the rickety pipes of The Burrow to come to life. He’d wake up the entire house.

Harry felt trapped. He wanted to tidy himself up immediately; he needed to feel clean now. He put his hand on the bathroom door, debating with himself. Finally, turning in disgust, he hurried down the rest of the stairs and began pacing.

It was only a dream. A dream he’d had many nights before.

It wasn’t real.

Only some of it was real. People died because he wasn’t fast enough.

Voldemort had lived inside of him, for years.

Harry couldn’t stop shaking. He had to get control before anyone else awoke. Abruptly, his thoughts turned to the swimming hole in the back garden. It wasn’t as good as the shower, but it was better than standing here feeling so dirty.

He strode through the kitchen and quietly opened the door to slip outside. It was a beautiful morning with only a few clouds dotting the sky. There was a slight chill in the air that he thought would burn off later, but it would mean the water would be cold now.

He wanted it anyway.

He sprinted to the water hole, ripped off his overly large T-shirt and quickly undid the drawstring on his pajama bottoms before diving in wearing only his pants. The water was even colder than he expected. He nearly lost his breath upon impact, but managed to hold it until his head broke the surface, gasping. He swam to the side and swished the water around himself, scrubbing as hard as he could with only his hands. He wished he’d thought to bring a flannel.

Or a towel.

Grimacing, he heaved himself out of the water, at least feeling calmer than he’d been before he dove. He sat on the edge of the swimming hole, dangling his feet in the water and shivering.

He hadn’t asked the Mediwitch at the Ministry for a Dreamless Sleep Potion as Kingsley had suggested, but now he wished he had. He really needed a few decent nights’ rest.

He didn’t know what was wrong with him. Mr. Weasley had called it Spell Shock, but Harry really wished it would stop. He’d always been prone to nightmares, but not like this, not every night.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, Harry pulled himself up and quickly redressed over his wet pants. He didn’t want to put his sweaty clothes back on, but he didn’t want to walk back into The Burrow in his underpants, either. There was bound to be a Weasley or two up by now.

He trudged slowly back toward the house and was startled when the kitchen door flew open before he could touch the door handle. Mrs. Weasley stood in the doorway, red-faced and scowling. Harry took a step back. He’d never seen her looking at him that way before, and it startled him. He’d recently acquired a new respect for her dueling skills.

“WHAT do you think you’re doing, young man?” she shouted, obviously not caring who was still sleeping.

“Er… I went for a swim,” Harry said, watching her warily. His heart thudded in his chest as he had no clue why she was so angry with him.

“ALONE? You never, ever go swimming alone, Harry Potter. It’s one of the strictest rules of this house,” Mrs. Weasley said, moving aside so he could enter the kitchen.

He didn’t know if he really wanted to go inside right then.

He moved through the door quickly, hugging the wall and stood well away from her. “Er… sorry. I didn’t know about that rule.”

“YOU COULD HAVE DROWNED. No one else was even awake and you were out there all alone. No word, no note. We wouldn’t have even known you were in trouble,” she shouted wildly, swinging her arms in the air and taking a step towards him.

Harry couldn’t stop himself. He flinched, raising his arms over his head to dodge a blow. He didn’t know why he reacted so badly. He knew the Weasleys were nothing like the Dursleys. He usually had better control of his instincts, but he was a mess this morning, and her shouting had startled him.

A heavy silence filled the kitchen.

Mortified, Harry slowly dropped his arms. Mrs. Weasley stood in front of him, still frozen in place, her hand covering her mouth.

Mr. Weasley, who must have entered the kitchen when he heard the shouting, stood in the entryway, a very troubled expression on his face.

Harry didn’t know where to look or what to say. He desperately wanted to get as far away from them as possible. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I won’t go out there alone again.”

“Oh, Harry,” Mrs. Weasley said tearfully. “I was worried about you, dear. It’s dangerous to swim alone. You could have died.” There was a desperate, pleading tone in her voice as she swiped at her eyes.


Harry nodded jerkily, his emotions in turmoil. The urge to flee had reached a fevered pitch.

“The water must have been cold,” Mr. Weasley said, finally coming fully inside the kitchen and sitting down. His eyes never left Harry’s face.

Harry was grateful to him for carrying on as if nothing had happened. “It was,” he whispered. “Colder than I expected.”

“Here, sit down, let me make you some tea to warm you up,” Mrs. Weasley said, pushing him into a chair.

Harry didn’t want to stay, but he couldn’t refuse her. It was the first morning she’d been up for breakfast, and she looked so distressed. She’d just lost her son and without even realizing, Harry had just reminded her of that. He felt like such a tosser.

He reluctantly raised his eyes to Mr. Weasley. “Sorry if I woke you up.”

Mr. Weasley smiled. “The door is warded to let Molly and me know if anyone is sneaking out at night.”

“Oh,” Harry said. Of course it would be.

“Although I think the twi- eh, George knows how to get around it,” Mr. Weasley said.

“Ginny, too,” said Mrs. Weasley, placing a steaming mug in front of Harry. “But don’t tell her I know.”

Harry’s wet pants were beginning to leak through his pajama bottoms. “Er… I should probably go change.”

Mrs. Weasley noticed his dilemma and quickly cast a drying spell.

Harry flinched again, but she didn’t notice. He didn’t like having wands pointed at him. He felt stupid for forgetting the Charm.

Mr. Weasley noticed his flinch.

“Did you sleep well, Harry?” he asked casually, and Harry realized he didn’t miss anything.

“Yes, sir,” he lied, looking down at the table. He took a large, scalding gulp of tea to avoid having to speak.

“Ron and Hermione should have arrived in Adelaide by now,” Mr. Weasley said, still watching Harry with those too-knowing eyes.

Harry felt terribly exposed.

“I do hope they’re all right,” Mrs. Weasley said, joining them at the table. “It’s so far away.”

“They’re fine, Molly,” Mr. Weasley said. “Hopefully having a grand adventure.”

Ron and Hermione had left yesterday, and Harry already missed them. It was weird being at The Burrow without Ron.

“Are you hungry, dear? I could whip you up a spot of breakfast,” Mrs. Weasley offered kindly. She was still looking at him with anxious eyes.

Harry couldn’t take it anymore. “No. Thanks anyway, Mrs. Weasley. I’m not hungry. I’ll wait for everyone else.”

“Well, being Saturday, you might have a bit of a wait. That lot enjoys a lie in,” she said, nodding her head toward the ceiling.

“I’m going to have a shower,” he said, no longer caring what time it was. He left the room quickly before they could respond.

As he entered the sitting room, he heard Mrs. Weasley exclaim, “Oh, Arthur!”

Harry sprinted up the stairs two at a time.

*****

Saturday was the day the Weasley siblings picked to go into Diagon Alley and help George begin the clean-up of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. A bright, sunny day meant the area should be busy and bustling with activity. Ginny was excited to be out, and she hoped this would be good for George.

When they arrived by Floo, they were stunned by the devastation around them. The shop had obviously been searched — thoroughly. Evidently, the Death Eaters hadn’t been very happy with Fred and George mocking their Dark Lord.

Broken shelves, smashed windows, and ruined cauldrons greeted their arrival. Paper and various Wheezes littered the floor beneath a layer of dust. The counter had been smashed and overturned, its contents strewn everywhere.

“Looks like it was a hell of a party. Sorry I missed it,” George said dully, staring at the mess.

“Yeah,” Charlie said, dismayed.

Ginny suspected George was feeling Fred’s loss keenly. Fred was gone, and now his business had been destroyed. She hoped George could handle another blow.

“It’s okay, it’ll just take a bit longer to clean it up,” she said bracingly. “We can do this.”

“Right,” George said, glumly kicking at some debris. “I wonder if the flat looks the same.”

“I’ll start on the flat, you all get started down here,” Harry said, weaving his way toward the back of the shop where the stairway to their flat was hidden.

Ginny knew he was worried about drawing a crowd by being here, and it would be more difficult to see him if he wasn’t in the shop windows.

“I’ll start on the front desk,” Ginny said. The desk area looked more manageable than other parts of the shop, and since she was the only one who couldn’t use magic, she thought it was only fair.

“Watch out for broken glass,” Percy said.

Each of the boys went to opposite corners while Fleur started in the center, and they began to repair the damage. As time wore on, the shop at least became more recognizable as a shop, but it was slow, arduous work, even with the aid of magic.

Ginny watched as Bill moved from person to person. Albeit assisting each brother, she also knew he was doing his customary check in to see how each was coping. Before he made his way over to Ginny, Harry’s head popped out from the stairway. His hair was mussed even more than usual, and she thought he looked rather wan and tired.

“Hey, George. Which bedroom is yours, the one on the right or left?” he asked.

George turned from the mess he was binning. “On the right,” he answered shortly. “Here, I’ll come up and show you.”

“No, that’s all right,” Harry said hastily. “Er… it’s coming along. I just wanted to get a start on yours in case we can’t finish today.”

He turned and hurried back up the stairs before George could respond.

Ginny suspected that Harry was clearing out Fred’s things before George had to do it, and her heart swelled with appreciation.

Fleur moved towards Bill and whispered something before following Harry up the stairs. She must have caught on to what Harry was doing, as well, and went to help him. It would be easier for Harry and Fleur than on the rest of them. Ginny felt an upsurge of affection for her sister-in-law.

Bill caught Ginny’s eye and moved toward her area.

“How’s it going, squirt?” he asked fondly.

“Slowly. I wish I could use magic. Think Kingsley will consider eliminating the Trace?” she asked huffily.

Bill laughed. “You go ahead and campaign for that one.”

“Three more months,” Ginny replied, blowing a strand of hair from her face.

“How are the revision sessions going? Do you think you’ll be ready to sit your exams?” Bill asked.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Hermione left me a very detailed revision schedule. I’m certain I’ll get top marks if I follow it.”

“Are you following it?” Bill asked, amused.

“Going back to Hogwarts will be strange,” Ginny said, avoiding Bill’s question entirely. “I don’t know if I want to go back.”

“Mum will have kittens if you don’t.”

“I know, but Mum wasn’t there under the Carrows’ reign, either,” Ginny said more harshly than she’d intended.

Bill sobered immediately. “I’ve heard some things. I wish you didn’t have to go through that. Don’t hold it against Hogwarts, though. You want to leave Hogwarts with a good memory. You’ll appreciate it as you get older.”

Ginny nodded thoughtfully.

“Did you have fun out with the boys the other night?” she asked, still feeling slightly miffed she hadn’t been included but wanting to change the subject to something lighter.

“I did. It was good for George, I think. He at least talked to some other people,” Bill replied.

Ginny nodded. “He went out again last night, too.”

“He did?” Bill seemed surprised.

“Uh-huh. Said he had a date with some bird he’d met in the bar with you,” Ginny replied.

“Hmm. Must’ve been after I left. I’ll ask Charlie,” Bill replied easily. “Do you know what’s going on with Mum and Dad?”

Ginny stared at him blankly. “Other than the obvious, you mean?”

“Yeah. I think it has something to do with Harry,” Bill said.

Ginny frowned. “Now that you mention it, it was sort of odd this morning when we left. Harry stayed holed up in Ron’s room all morning. He didn’t even come down for breakfast, and when we were leaving, there was a peculiar sort of tension. I don’t know what it was about though.”

As she ran the morning over in her mind, she recalled noticing Harry wouldn’t even glance up as he walked toward the fireplace, and she’d thought he looked extremely pale.

“Dad Floo called me this morning. Wanted to know if I’d noticed anything unusual when I was guarding Privet Drive last year,” Bill said.

Ginny’s eyes widened. Well, that certainly hadn’t been what she’d expected. “His relatives? Why? Maybe they’re being moved home,” she offered.

“Maybe. Dad just seemed off to me,” Bill said, lost in thought.

“What did you tell him?” she asked.

Bill shrugged. “There wasn’t much to tell. I barely saw Harry, only heard his voice through the open windows on occasion. His relatives treated him poorly, but we all knew that.”

Ginny scowled. “I don’t understand why they insisted he had to be sent back there every year. Mum and Dad would have easily let him stay with us, and he’d have been happier.”

“Dumbledore told us there were special blood wards that protected him there. He thought Harry was safer if he stayed there,” Bill said, frowning.

“You don’t believe that?” Ginny asked.

“No, it’s not that I don’t believe it, it’s just… if it were any other kid, I think Dumbledore would’ve got him out of there,” he said slowly.

“Well, he’s never going back now,” Ginny said.

Bill helped her turn the front desk to rights and repaired the glass covering the display case so Ginny could begin replacing items by hand. She made a pile of broken items that would have to be repaired with a wand.

Her stomach had been rumbling for about an hour when the Floo flared and her dad stepped out with a picnic basket laden with a scrumptious feast.

“Your mother thought you’d all be hungry,” he said happily. Her mother getting back to cooking and fussing over what they ate was a good sign.

“I’m starving,” Charlie said, reminding Ginny of Ron. Typical of Ron to miss all the hard work. Prat.

“Where’s Harry?” her father asked.

Now that she was aware enough to look for it, Ginny could spot the telltale worry signs on her father’s face. His brow was furrowed in the center, and his eyes appeared rather dull.

Something was definitely troubling him.

“He and Fleur are cleaning upstairs,” Percy said. “I’ll get them.”

George moved over to the crowd and lifted a sandwich from the pile. “Thanks for doing this, you lot,” he said.

Ginny thought he looked desperately sad, but more resolute than he had in days. She hoped being back in the shop would reignite some of his creative energy.

Percy returned, followed closely by Fleur and Harry. Ginny watched Harry freeze on the stairs, one foot hovering in thin air before he continued down. He took a sandwich as far away from her dad as he could get.

To his credit, her dad seemed to realize he was making the young wizard uncomfortable. “Well, I know you’re all busy, so I don’t want to keep you. You’re doing a fantastic job. I daresay, the grand reopening will be a booming success.”

“Don’t you want to stay for lunch?” Percy asked hopefully.

It was only then Ginny realized how quiet Percy had been while they all worked. He couldn’t seem to get comfortable being around his family. That thought bothered Ginny but she didn’t know how to fix it.

“No, I don’t want to leave your mother on her own. I’ll see you lot at dinner,” he said before disappearing through the Floo.

“Suppose we should dismantle the anti-Apparition wards,” George said after a moment.

“Wait until you’re ready to open and the place isn’t so empty,” Bill said.

George nodded. “I’m going to have to hire some help. I can’t do this on my own,” he said, his voice choked.

“I could help with the ledgers,” Percy offered, causing everyone to look up at him. “I mean…if you want.”

George stared at Percy for a long time before finally saying, “Thanks, Perce. That would be a big help. Neither of us were ever very good with that stuff.”

“And I’ll work the floor until September,” Ginny said.

“Ron and I will, too. Weekends even after we start work,” Harry said.

George smiled and ducked his head. “Thanks,” he mumbled thickly.

Ginny walked up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist, squeezing him tightly. He patted her arms clumsily.

“Speaking of work, Harry, I spoke to the goblins and after some gentle persuading, your accounts should be available within the next few days. They’ll send you an owl,” Bill said, smiling at the younger wizard.

Harry’s face colored, but he smiled gratefully. “Thanks very much, Bill.”

Ginny was confused, and she saw the same puzzled expression on the rest of her brothers.

“What’s going on with the goblins?” she asked.

Bill looked surprised, glancing around at the faces of his siblings, he shrugged apologetically at Harry. “Sorry. When Kingsley told me, I thought they all knew.”

Harry waved him off. “There was enough to be getting on with at The Burrow already,” he mumbled.

“What’s going on with the goblins?” Ginny repeated. She could see the others all waiting for the answer.

“Er…Bill helped free up my accounts,” Harry said. “What did you have to do to convince them?”

“It seems the goblins, for some unfathomable reason, decided to confiscate all his gold in repayment for damage to the bank. They also wanted to try him for his break-in,” Bill said, enlightening the others.

“They what?” George said indignantly.

“You can’t be serious,” Charlie spluttered.

“That seems highly inappropriate,” Percy said, shaking his head.

Ginny turned to Harry. “Do you mean you’ve had no access to your money all this time?” she demanded.

Harry shrugged. “Hadn’t needed it yet.”

Ginny knew that was a lie. Harry’s clothes were ragged and worn, many of them too small. He had a godson now, and he needed his own owl. No wonder he hadn’t put up a fuss about staying at The Burrow. He couldn’t afford to go anywhere.

“So, how did you convince the goblins to change their minds?” Charlie asked.

Bill grinned widely. “I simply said, ‘I wonder how many witches and wizards will remove their funds from Gringotts when they realize the bank is persecuting Harry Potter for things he had to do in order to defeat Voldemort. The war wouldn’t have ended without him. It might be prime time for another group to start a banking option.’”

“Brilliant,” George whispered appreciatively.

“How’d they take that?” Charlie asked, eyes wide.

Bill shrugged. “The goblins are very prideful. The only thing they take more seriously than their pride is their money. Losing both just wasn’t an option.”

“I really appreciate it,” Harry said quietly.

“It’s what families do. You should’ve come to me yourself. We could’ve had this whole thing wrapped up sooner.”

Harry ducked his head, but Ginny could tell he was pleased. He never took being included with the Weasleys for granted. Sometimes, Ginny wished he would.

“Okay, now that Harry’s rolling in gold again, let’s see if we can refill my bank account. Back to work,” George shouted. He was in better spirits than he’d been when they first arrived, and his cleaning held a less manic quality. Occasionally some stray product would visibly stagger him, but all in all, he’d done remarkably well.

Grumbling halfheartedly, his siblings returned to work.

*****

When they’d returned tired and grimy from the shop, Mrs. Weasley was in the midst of preparing a large dinner for all of them. Even Bill and Fleur had come back to The Burrow rather than returning to Shell Cottage. By the time they’d all had showers and changed their clothes, it was time to eat.

Harry kept his head down and avoided the many attempts by Mr. Weasley to draw him into the conversation. He didn’t know what to say to the man, and feared his quiet, thoughtful eyes saw way too much. He felt badly ignoring him. After all, the Weasleys had given him so much, and they’d lost so much because of him, but Harry simply didn’t know what else to do.

The day’s physical work had been excellent for keeping his mind off things, and he was bone-weary. He hoped that perhaps his exhaustion would finally allow him a full night’s sleep.

Ginny kept giving him odd glances, and he suspected she was aware of his aloofness towards her parents.

As they were all clearing their plates, Charlie said, “Hey, there’s enough of us here to have a mock game of Quidditch. Who’s in?”

A chorus of affirmatives filled the air, and Harry was one of the first out the door, racing for the broom shed. They converged on the field, they began to split into teams, and that’s where the trouble began.

“Harry and I will go head to head as Seeker,” Charlie stated, grinning. “I want to see if you live up to your reputation.”

Harry grinned back. “I could say the same.”

“I’ll play Keeper,” Bill said. “Percy, do you want to play for the other team?”

Percy didn’t look thrilled, but he said, “Better Keeper than Chaser.”

“I’ll play Chaser on Harry’s team,” Ginny said quickly.

“And I’ll play opposite her,” Fleur jumped in.

That left George. They were short another Beater.

“Guess we’re one Beater short. We’ll always be one Beater short,” he said brokenly, his face crumpling before he turned on his heel and raced back to The Burrow.

“Shit.” Charlie said.

“I’ll go after him,” Bill said. He kissed Fleur on the cheek. “You lot carry on.”

Ginny looked close to tears herself, so Harry walked over and put his arm around her shoulders. She leaned into him, burying her face against his chest.

“I just want things to be normal again,” she whimpered brokenly.

“I know,” Harry said softly. “We just have to get used to the new normal.”

Ginny chuckled a little, her face still pressed into his chest. “Please don’t be angry with my parents. I know they can hover, and that must be difficult for you, but it’s only because they care.”

Harry sighed. So she had noticed the tension. “I’m not angry with your parents, Ginny. I appreciate them more than they’ll ever know. I just don’t always know how I’m supposed to respond to them. I never want to hurt them, and I’m sorry if I hurt you. I promise I’ll stop avoiding them.”

Ginny wrapped her arms around him more tightly. “Thank you.”

He’d just have to tamp down on his discomfort and treat the Weasleys as if nothing had happened. He could do that. He’d spent a lifetime doing that at one time or another. If it was hurting Ginny, it had to stop. He knew he was being ridiculous anyway.

Fleur, Charlie and Percy had taken to the air to give the young couple a moment of privacy, so once Ginny had pulled herself together, she and Harry joined them in flight. Charlie flew down and grabbed an apple, and they began a game of catch. Percy was horrendous, but Harry was pleased to see him agree to play.

He wasn’t quite sure how he felt about Percy. There was too much history and bad blood between them for him to ever feel completely comfortable with the wayward Weasley, but the fact remained, he was a Weasley, and Harry wanted them to be happy. He could be cordial to Percy, if not completely trusting.

Fleur was a decent flyer, and she and Ginny teamed up against the boys as they raced over the meadow. Harry felt all the stresses of the day melting away as he soared as high as he could reasonably go without risk of being seen by any Muggles. He was at the height of one of these ascensions when the first jet of orange light sped past his head.

It took the others a moment to process what was happening, but Harry was instantly on alert. His wand slid into his hand as he cast a Shield Charm.

“Get to the ground,” he shouted to the others. “What are you waiting on? Take cover!”

Another spell flew past him, but he pulled the broom to the left to dodge, and he ducked under the next one. They were coming from multiple directions. The Burrow was under attack.

The others had reached the ground, Ginny and Charlie on one side of the paddock near the trees, Percy and Fleur on the other much more exposed. Harry set down near Ginny when a searing pain erupted along his side.

He sucked in his breath, clenching his teeth to keep from shouting.

“Are you all right?” Ginny asked as he reached her spot behind a large tree. “That looked like it hit you.”

“I’m okay,” he said. “Did you get a glimpse of where they were hiding?”

“I think they’re in more than one spot, but still outside the border,” Charlie said, ducking as part of the tree blew off in front of him.

“Ginny, send your Patronus back to the house and get some reinforcements,” Harry said.

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

“I’m going to try and get Percy and Fleur. They’re too exposed where they are.”

As he spoke, Percy and Fleur were forced to move as the area around them erupted in flames. Fleur shot a powerful Stunning Spell toward the trees on the perimeter. Another jet of blue light streamed towards her, but her Shield held.

Percy wasn’t as lucky. As he sprinted across the open meadow, a jet of red light hit him in the back, and he crumpled to the ground.

“No,” Charlie gasped.

There was nothing for it. He couldn’t let the Weasleys lose another son because of him. Harry moved from the protection of the trees and sprinted toward Percy as the others shouted for him to come back. Spells of various colors flew around him, more now but still sporadic. He was thankful to note none of them were telltale green. Harry’s Shield held, and as he reached Percy, he tried to drag him inside it.

Percy was unconscious, but moaning slightly so Harry knew he was alive. He struggled to drag him to the nearest copse of trees. They were sparsely placed and not nearly as good a cover as where Ginny and the others were, but better than nothing. He saw Ginny’s horse Patronus galloping toward The Burrow.

A spell hit the thin tree above his head, and it smashed, raining down a torrent of splintered wood.

A deep, unrecognized voice boomed from the edge of the paddock, “Mr. Potter, if you’d care to come outside the wards for a discussion, no one else need be harmed.”

“You have allowed your friends to die for you,”

No, this couldn’t be happening again. Harry could barely breathe.

“Don’t do it, Harry,” a chorus of voices protested from the protection of the larger trees to his left.

“They’ve weakened the wards, but they can’t get through,” Charlie shouted. “That’s why they want you outside. They haven’t managed to breach them.”

Percy moaned beside him. Harry turned to see him moving his head from side to side. He couldn’t see a wound, so perhaps he’d merely been Stunned.

He pointed his wand at Percy’s chest and uttered, “Reennervate.”

Percy’s eyes fluttered open, staring around him in confusion. When he tried to sit up, Harry held him down.

“Stay still,” Harry hissed. “Our cover isn’t very good.”

Harry’s mind was racing. He had to get the others out of here. If the wards were still holding their attackers on the other side…

Expecto Patronum,” Harry bellowed, watching as Prongs leapt from his wand. Concentrating on the message he wanted to send, he watched as the stag ran towards Ginny, bowing its head as his message was delivered.

“Percy, we need to move backwards, closer to the house. I need you to stay low, and move as quickly as you can without getting into an open area. I’ll cover you,” Harry said.

“I don’t think you should stay here alone,” Percy said. “It’s you they want.”

“I know, but the wards haven’t fallen completely, and you’re still woozy. The further back we can get, the less likely the spells can reach us. It’s only because we’re out here by the edge of the property that they were able to attack.”

From the corner of his vision, he saw Charlie and the girls darting from tree to tree. Several spells flew towards them, but they grew weaker the further the trio moved.
“Go now, Percy,” Harry demanded.

Percy hesitated a moment before he began to move back. Another orange spell immediately raced toward him, but Harry raised a Shield, dissipating it.

As if their attackers had sensed what they were trying to do, the volume of spells increased, all aimed towards Harry’s hiding spot. Branches fell around him while dirt and rocks flew in the air, cutting and scraping his skin.

He kept a vigilant eye on Percy’s progress, and once he thought the Weasley brother was far enough back, Harry began to retreat, dodging the spells and holding his Shield. A tree branch snapped and fell, dropping within inches of his head. Harry paused to catch his breath, but before he could begin to move again, a blinding light flashed along the edges of the property, and all spell-fire stopped. Harry heard a muffled groan and a shout before the distinctive sounds of Disapparition filled the air. Harry cautiously got to his feet and began moving back, still facing the trees where the spells had been issuing.

“Harry!” Bill shouted.

Harry glanced to the side to see Bill with his wand drawn. “The others are behind me, and I’ve brought the wards back up to full strength,” Bill said.

Harry lowered his own wand and turned to walk towards the eldest brother. He could see George and Mr. Weasley assisting Percy. His eyes scanned the pathway, searching for Ginny. She was running toward him, flaming hair flying out behind her.

As his adrenaline began to fade, Harry realized his side was throbbing painfully. He put his hand to it, wondering if he’d bruised some ribs.

As Ginny reached him, her eyes widened. “You’re bleeding,” she gasped.

Harry pulled his hand away from his side, staring in consternation at the blood dripping from it. Before he could speak, before he could check the wound, before he could even acknowledge the others running toward him, Harry’s eyes rolled back and blackness descended over him.

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