|SIYE Time:2:47 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: 80759; Chapter Total: 3939
Awards: View Trophy Room
As always, appreciation to my star beta, Sherylyn who always finds the time for me. I seem to have developed a capitalization problem that she’s been working tirelessly to correct.
Special thanks to Kezza, Calla, and WrappedinHarry for their invaluable Australian expertise. Thank you, ladies!
Shout out to Classic Jen who always worries about when the characters use the loo, lol.
Ginny’s heart was still thumping too hard in her chest despite the fact the spellfire had stopped. Percy had to be all right. She couldn’t lose another brother. She couldn’t lose Harry, again, either. Why was this happening? There was supposed to be wards to prevent it.
Despite the acrid smoke, she could see her father across the clearing talking to Percy, who was on his feet and responding. Ginny’s legs wobbled, and she thought they might give out beneath her. Bill stood next to her father, waving his wand. She assumed he was attempting to strengthen the wards.
She hurried toward them but changed direction when she saw Harry emerging from the trees. Bill yelled to Harry, but Ginny didn’t even hear what he said, her relief was so great. Harry kept his back to her, carefully watching the trees in front of him for signs of incoming spellfire.
When he turned, his eyes immediately sought her out. A sob caught in her throat as she began to run toward him. It was then she noticed the blood-drenched side of his T-shirt.
Harry put a hand to his ribs just as she gasped, “You’re bleeding.”
He pulled his bloody hand away, staring at it stupidly for a moment that seemed suspended in time. His eyes rolled back, and his knees buckled. Ginny reached to catch him, but she couldn’t support his weight, and they both collapsed to the ground. Harry’s head lolled against her chest.
“Dad!” she screamed. “He’s hurt!”
Her dad left Percy with Charlie and hurried toward them, kneeling down and helping her to move Harry off her pinned legs. She cradled his head in her lap while her father checked his wound. She gasped as he lifted Harry’s shirt to reveal a long, gaping slash from his ribs onto his abdomen.
Ginny’s mother was hurrying up the path as quickly as her legs would carry her, panic written all over her face.
“George, go head off your mother,” her father barked as he moved to the side to allow Fleur to examine Harry’s ribs.
George didn’t move. He just stood there, staring horrorstruck at Harry’s prone figure.
“Zis eez very deep. I cannot fix it. We need to bring him to St. Mungos,” Fleur said. Ginny knew Fleur was agitated by the heaviness of her accent.
“Charlie, help me bring him inside. Ginny, you go get your mother,” her dad said.
Ginny didn’t want to leave Harry’s side, but she obeyed without argument.
Charlie left Percy with Bill and leaned over to scoop Harry into his arms as if he were a child. Her dad got up and took George’s arm, leading him back to The Burrow. George moved as if in a trance.
“I’m going to contact Kingsley and tell him what happened,” Bill said. “He’ll need to send a guard over to St. Mungo’s.”
When Ginny reached her mother, she grabbed her by her arm, halting her progress.
“What happened?” her mother wailed. “Is everyone all right?” The sheer panic in her mother’s voice further rattled Ginny’s nerves.
“They’re all coming back to the house now so you can look them over. We should go get your first aid kit and your potion supply,” Ginny said.
Her mother nodded frantically, seemingly happy to have something to do. They reached The Burrow first. Her mum hurried to get her supplies while Ginny anxiously watched the others enter the house.
Bill came first, allowing a limping Percy to lean on him. He propped Percy in a chair and immediately went to the fireplace to Floo call the Minister.
Her dad came in next, supporting a still-dazed George, followed closely by Fleur, and finally Charlie who was cradling Harry in his arms.
Ginny’s vision clouded and elongated. She felt dizzy as little stars burst in front of her. She was suddenly back at Hogwarts on the grounds of the battle, watching Hagrid carry Harry’s limp form from the trees. A sob welled up within her.
“Ginny,” Fleur spoke beside her, bringing Ginny back to the present, “are you all right?”
“Yeah,” she whispered, barely able to stand on her own. She fiercely blinked the tears from her eyes, refusing to let them fall.
Fleur guided her to a chair as her mother bustled back into the room, stopping at George first and giving him a once over. Charlie carried Harry into the sitting room.
“What happened to George?” her mum asked, unable to find a wound on him or get any response.
“I think he’s stuck in his memories,” Ginny said, since the same thing had just happened to her.
“Percy, do you have an injury?” her mother asked, looking through her potions for one that would help George.
“I just need a headache reliever,” Percy said, “I got Stunned.”
“Did you get hold of Kingsley?” her father asked, coming back into the kitchen.
“Yeah,” Bill said, turning around. “He told me to give him five minutes to get things ready at St. Mungo’s before we bring Harry in.”
“What happened to Harry?” her mother asked shrilly.
Ginny couldn’t take the anxiety anymore. She slipped away from Fleur and entered the sitting room where Charlie was using Harry’s balled-up T-shirt to try and stop the bleeding. Harry was exceedingly pale, and the circles beneath his eyes looked like bruises. He was so utterly still and un-Harry-like that it frightened her.
“Ginny, get me something to mop up this blood. This shirt is saturated,” Charlie said tensely. Charlie’s shirt was covered in Harry’s blood, as well.
Ginny hurried up the stairs to the linen cupboard and grabbed several towels before hurrying them back to Charlie.
“Bill said Kingsley is getting St. Mungo’s ready for him,” she whispered, unable to drag her eyes away from Harry’s white face.
“He’s a tough kid, squirt. He’ll be okay,” Charlie said gruffly.
“Ron is going to be beside himself when he finds out this happened while he was away,” Ginny said, thinking about her brother’s constant need to check on both Harry and Hermione.
“You’re too right,” Charlie agreed. “He’s been bloody overprotective.”
Bill entered the sitting room and eyed the scene critically. “Are you ready to move him? St. Mungo’s should be ready.”
“Yeah, I’ve done all I can do here,” Charlie said, pressing another towel to Harry’s bleeding side.
“Do you want to take him or should I?” Bill asked.
“You do it,” Charlie said. “I’m afraid I’ll drop him in the Floo, my hands are shaking so badly.”
Bill nodded, scooping Harry awkwardly in his arms and carrying him to the fireplace. Ginny and Charlie followed right behind.
Ginny emerged from the Floo in the emergency ward at St. Mungo’s. Her father was already there since he’d Apparated directly. He stood at the front desk, keeping his voice low but urgent. “This is the high-profile case the Ministry is expecting.”
Bill hunched his body over Harry to shield his face from the curious patients in the waiting room.
“A team is on their way down,” the receptionist said briskly.
A door behind her opened, and several Healers and Mediwitchs emerged, surrounding Bill and levitating Harry out of his arms. Ginny was thankful to note one of them had the foresight to drape a cloth over Harry’s face to hide his identity.
The team returned through the door from which they came, and it locked behind them before any of the Weasleys were able to follow.
“You can go up to the fourth floor, Spell Damage ward. Someone will be in touch with you,” the receptionist instructed.
Along with her entire family, Ginny sprinted for the lift. When they arrived at the Spell Damage ward, Kingsley Shacklebolt was awaiting them.
“Follow me. There’s a more private waiting area where we can talk,” he said before any of them could speak.
They followed him in silence, Ginny’s heart thumped wildly. Her mum walked beside her, wringing her hands. Her face was pinched, and Ginny could tell she was ready to launch herself at Kingsley for some answers.
George followed behind her, still quiet but more alert after whichever potion her mum had given him.
“Here we are,” Kingsley said, ushering them all into a comfortable waiting room with a door that closed securely.
“How did they get through the wards?” Bill demanded. He’d set many of those wards himself, and he looked furious that they’d been breached.
“I don’t know yet,” Kingsley answered. “I’ve sent a team to The Burrow to inspect them. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to return.”
“I repaired the ones that had been damaged,” Bill said.
Kingsley nodded. “I’ll let them know. There has been a lot of underground chatter that something involving Harry was planned, and I’m assuming this was it, but I just can’t be certain. There is an Auror guarding the room where he is, and there will be one there continuously for as long as he needs to stay.”
“I thought you said the Aurors were vastly depleted,” Bill said.
“They are, but this is top priority,” Kingsley replied.
Her dad nodded in agreement. “What can we do?” he asked the Minister.
“Nothing right now. Take care of Harry, and I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve heard anything. Were any of the rest of you hurt?”
“Percy was Stunned. The rest of us just have some cuts and bruises from falling debris,” Charlie answered.
“I’m going to have someone check you over, Percy,” the Minister said.
“That’s not necessary,” Percy said.
“Just to be safe,” Kingsley replied in a tone that said it was going to happen regardless of what Percy thought.
“I want to know what you plan on doing to keep Harry safe,” her mum said tearfully. “The war is over. He’s supposed to be safe.”
Kingsley nodded sadly. He knelt in front of her mum and took her hands in his. “I know, Molly. I’ll do everything in my power to bring these rogue Death Eaters to justice. In the meantime, he’ll need to continue to practice Constant Vigilance.”
“He’ll hate that,” George said, speaking for the first time since the attack.
Ginny nodded. “He will, so we have to discreetly keep an eye on him.”
They all settled into chairs, allowing the tension from the attack to drain as the hours passed. Eventually, a middle-aged Healer opened the door. He was very tall with kind blue eyes and a very bushy mustache.
“I’m Healer Stayer. Mr. Potter is resting comfortably. You’ll be allowed to see him shortly, but I ask only two at a time. He’s unconscious, and I don’t expect he’ll wake before morning. Once he does, I ask that you don’t overly tire him. He’ll be weak, and he needs rest.”
“What Curse did they use?” her father asked. “And what’s the damage?”
“I believe it was a simple Cutting Curse. I couldn’t detect any trace of Dark Magic. Unfortunately, the way the Curse hit him, it caused severe damage to some of his internal organs. We’ve repaired all the damage, and he’ll be fine in a few days, but he needs to rest to continue the healing,” Healer Stayer said.
“He’ll hate that,” George muttered again.
“I’m going back to the Ministry to see if there is any news. I want you all to stay here until The Burrow is secured,” Kingsley said.
“Understood,” her father nodded. “I think we all want to stay close, anyway.”
Ginny settled back in her chair, curling up against the side, and readied herself for a long, anxious evening.
Ha rry slowly drifted back to consciousness. He was so comfortable and warm, so rested, he didn’t want to move. He didn’t want to lose the last vestiges of sleep, so he burrowed further into the pillow. Try as he might, however, he couldn’t stop his mind from being aware of the light in the room, or the nagging feeling in his stomach. Harry regretfully cracked his eyes open.
He didn’t recognize where he was.
Heart thudding in his chest, his eyes flew open wide, taking in the stark walls and pale green lighting. It wasn’t the hospital wing, so it must be St. Mungo’s. How had he got here? Harry’s muddled brain fought with the details. He’d been at Hogwarts. No, that wasn’t right. The Burrow. He’d been at The Burrow. The Quidditch Pitch! They’d been attacked on the Quidditch pitch.
His breath caught in his throat, and Harry sat up quickly, immediately regretting it. His side ached painfully, and his head spun so badly he thought he might pass out. He shut his eyes tightly, hoping the world would right itself. He rubbed his hand along his side, feeling the rough cloth bandages wrapped tightly around his middle.
He had to find the others and make certain everyone was all right.
As he found his glasses on the bedside table, his door opened and an unrecognized Mediwitch bustled inside. Her eyes opened wide when she saw him sitting in the bed. “Mr. Potter, you’re awake,” she said unnecessarily. “You need to remain lying down to let that wound heal.”
She gently, yet firmly, pushed him back down. He was annoyed that he didn’t have the strength to resist her.
“What happened?” he asked immediately.
“Well, you’ve managed to get your insides stirred around, but we’ve set them all to rights. You’ll have to take it easy for the next few days. There’s a room full of visitors outside, but I’m only allowing them in two at a time,” she said.
Harry felt immensely relieved they were there.
The Mediwitch waved her wand above his body, starting at this toes and working her way all the way up to the top of his head. She frowned slightly, but covered it quickly when she noticed him watching.
“That bruise on your chest is still resisting the salve you’ve been using. I’m going to check if there is anything stronger.”
“How did you know I was using a salve?” Harry asked suspiciously.
She quirked her eyebrow at him. “The medical diagnostic I just completed tells me everything, Mr. Potter. I’m going to go and fetch you some pain reliever and a spot of breakfast. Oh, and here you go… ” she said, waving her wand once again.
Harry instantly felt relief from his full bladder. His face colored brilliantly. He wished the bed would swallow him whole.
The Mediwitch chuckled. “That lot out there warned me you wouldn’t give me an honest answer about your physical condition.”
Harry refused to look at her. He settled back on his pillows. “Can you send them in?” he asked.
She eyed him critically before nodding. “Just for a few minutes,” she said before bustling out the door.
Harry had only shut his eyes before the door opened and Ginny and Mrs. Weasley hurried it.
“Oh, Harry. How are you, dear?” Mrs. Weasley asked, sniffling. She looked even more wan and tired than she had over the past several days, and he instantly felt guilty for putting her through any more.
Ginny, too, was very pale, her eyes taking in every detail.
“I’m all right,” Harry assured them. “Is everyone else okay? How’s Percy?”
“He’s just fine,” Mrs. Weasley said, continuing to fuss. She fluffed his pillows and adjusted the blanket over him. “They fixed him up right as rain. He’s outside with the rest of them waiting to hear about you. We’re all going to head home for a kip shortly.”
“We’ll take it in turns staying so you won’t be alone,” Ginny said, laying a hand on his shoulder.
Harry was simultaneously touched and annoyed. “I don’t need a minder,” he said without any sting to his words.
“I know you don’t,” Ginny replied calmly, “but it makes us feel better, all right?”
Harry remembered when Ginny told him how upsetting it was for her to see Hagrid carrying him out of the forest when she thought he was dead. He must have put her through something like that again. He was such a prat.
He lowered his eyes. “Sorry.”
“You’re sorry that a Death Eater attacked you?” Ginny asked. “I wasn’t aware you’d asked him to do that.”
“Ginny!” her mum scolded.
Harry fought a smirk. Before he could respond, the door opened and the Mediwitch bustled back in. She carried a potion and a bowl of what he thought might be porridge, but he couldn’t be certain.
“Here you are, Mr. Potter,” she said, holding up the potion.
Harry eyed it warily.
“It’s a pain reliever. You can swallow it, or I can assist you to swallow it,” she said, no-nonsense.
Harry took the phial and downed it quickly, grimacing at the taste. “Why do they always have to taste like dirty socks?” he asked sourly.
“How on earth do you know what dirty socks taste like?” the witch asked, placing the porridge on a table next to him. “Eat what you can tolerate. Have one of these fine ladies let me know if it makes you nauseous. He is hungry, so be sure he eats something,” she said to Ginny and Mrs. Weasley as she left.
Mrs. Weasley lifted the bowl, filling the spoon with a bit of porridge and hovering it in front of his mouth.
Harry gaped. Certainly she wasn’t expecting to feed him?
“Come on, dear, open up,” she said, smiling brightly.
Merlin, she was.
Ginny snickered. “Yeah, Harry. You heard her. You need to eat,” she said gleefully.
If Harry could have Hexed her with his eyes, he would have done.
Scowling, he tried to take the spoon from Mrs. Weasley’s hand, but she pulled it away. Harry could see a plea in her eyes. She wanted to do this, and he couldn’t refuse her. Grudgingly, he opened his mouth to let a beaming Mrs. Weasley feed him a spoonful.
Ginny could barely contain her giggles, and he shot glares at her between each bite. It only seemed to make her laugh harder.
After several more bites, Harry began to grow drowsy. He supposed it was the pain potion beginning to work because the sharp pain in his side had lessened to a dull ache.
Turning his head away from the spoon, he mumbled, “That’s all.”
Mrs. Weasley looked down at the half-full bowl. “Are you certain, dear? Maybe just one more bite?”
Harry sank into his pillows. Her words were muffled and his head began to spin. He couldn’t seem to keep his eyes open.
“It’s okay, Harry,” Ginny whispered, brushing back the hair on his forehead. “You rest now. We’ll be here when you wake.”
Harry leaned into her touch, letting the darkness claim him.
When he awoke again, he suspected it was much later in the day. His side was painful once more, and he thought the pain was what had dragged him from his slumber. He also needed to use the loo.
Mr. Weasley and Kingsley Shacklebolt sat in the fluffy chairs by his bed, talking in hushed tones. Neither had noticed him open his eyes. He tried to pull himself up but couldn’t hold back a gasp as pain shot through his side, attracting the attention of both men.
“Harry!” Mr. Weasley said, immediately adjusting the pillows so Harry was propped up a bit. He handed Harry his glasses. “How are you feeling? Should I call a Healer?”
Harry shook his head, still unable to speak as waves like fire shot down his right side. He didn’t want a Healer yet. He wanted to know what they were discussing before the pain reliever put him back to sleep.
Mr. Weasley’s face was pinched, but he reluctantly retook his seat.
“We’ve done a thorough search of the area around The Burrow, Harry, but obviously they’d Disapparated by then,” Kingsley said, his deep baritone voice filling the still room. “Did you recognize any of them?”
“No, they never came out of the trees. I didn’t recognize the voice either,” Harry replied, gritting his teeth against the pain.
Kingsley frowned. He didn’t ask about which voice, so Harry assumed the others had already given their account of what had happened on the Quidditch pitch. “While you were sleeping, one of my best Aurors got a lead. Have you ever heard of a Death Eater named Doogin MacCullity?” Kingsley asked.
The name was unfamiliar to him. He shook his head.
“He wasn’t high-ranking, but his name kept appearing more and more frequently towards the end of the war,” Kingsley said. “Auror Proudfoot got a tip on where he was spotted this morning, so he’s gone to check it out.”
“Why were they at The Burrow?” Harry asked. “If they hadn’t completely broken through the wards, why did they attack? It would have made more sense to wait until they had collapsed completely.”
“That’s a very good question, and I don’t have an answer,” Kingsley said, grimacing. “What we do know is that you’re a prime target. Perhaps they saw you so close they couldn’t resist the chance.”
Harry’s insides went cold. “What do you mean I’m a prime target?”
“You destroyed their leader, lad. They’re looking for revenge,” Mr. Weasley said gently.
“Not to mention you took away the life of power and prestige they thought was coming to them once Voldemort took over,” Kingsley replied. “I’m putting The Burrow under tighter security until they’re caught.”
“I’m not going be locked up,” Harry said hotly. For a nightmarish moment he thought the Minister was going to try and send him back to the Dursleys.
“I understand that, Harry, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be cautious,” the Minister replied.
Harry scowled. It was supposed to be over. The Prophecy had been fulfilled. He was so tired of living as a target.
“I’m sorry,” Mr. Weasley said, resting his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “I know it’s not what you wanted to hear.”
“It still doesn’t make sense that they attacked, though. If they couldn’t get through the wards, why not wait until I went to the Ministry or Diagon Alley? They couldn’t have expected me to just walk into the woods and surrender,” Harry said, puzzled.
Mr. Weasley raised his eyebrows nearly to his thinning hairline at the irony of that statement.
Harry shrugged sheepishly.
Before Kingsley could speculate, a Healer entered the room holding a phial of potion. Her dark eyes raked over Harry’s guests, widening slightly when she noticed the Minister. She nodded before proceeding to her patient.
“Hello, Mr. Potter. I’m Healer Larkin. Let’s see how you’re feeling this afternoon,” she said while waving her wand over him much more quickly than the Mediwitch had this morning. She nodded before casting a spell that once again, eliminated Harry’s need to use the loo.
Harry colored brightly and prayed she wouldn’t mention anything about that in front of Mr. Weasley or the Minister.
“Why didn’t you call for a pain potion when you awoke?” she asked, frowning. “Here, drink this down now.”
“Are you in pain, Harry?” Mr. Weasley asked, alarmed.
The Minister was also staring at him appraisingly.
“A bit,” Harry mumbled, grimacing at the taste of the potion.
“I’d say more than a bit,” the Healer replied. “The Mediwitch informed me of the difficulty in Healing your chest wound. I’d like to take a look.”
“Now?” Harry asked.
She glanced at Mr. Weasley and the Minister.
“We’ve already seen it,” Mr. Weasley said firmly.
She looked at Harry who simply stared back. He was already feeling a little woozy from the potion. He wished she’d asked before he’d taken it. It made him a little loopy.
“Do you mind if they stay?” she asked.
“If who stays?” Harry asked.
Mr. Weasley smirked.
Healer Larkin waved her wand again and vanished Harry’s pajama top. Both men standing beside her winced, but she studied the mark curiously. “And you’ve been covering the entire area twice a day with the Bruise Remover the Ministry Mediwitch gave you?”
“Uh-huh,” Harry said, flinching when she put her cold hands on the scar beneath the bruise.
“This is Dark Magic at its worse, and I think we need a stronger balm. I’m going to send an owl to a Potions Master who might have something for us to try,” she said, pursing her lips.
Harry wondered if he should mention the Horcrux. It wasn’t just a Killing Curse they were dealing with, and they should probably know. His head was swimming, however, and he really didn’t want to talk about it. Was the scar how the Horcrux got out of him? Had it travelled from his head down through his body to his chest before being expelled?
“The Killing Curse rebounded upon Lord Voldemort, and a fragment of Voldemort’s soul was blasted apart from the whole, and latched itself onto the only living soul left in that collapsed building.”
He shuddered, feeling a desperate panic rising in his chest. He was having a hard time catching his breath. He clutched at the bed sheets. He couldn’t breathe.
“Mr. Potter,” Healer Larkin said, alarmed. She pulled the pillow from beneath Harry’s head so he plopped down level on the bed. She placed her hand flat upon his chest. “Deep breath, you’re all right.”
Warmth radiated from her hand, and her tranquil voice helped Harry to calm down. As he started to breathe normally, his eyes began to droop. It was nearly impossible to keep them open. He tried fighting the pain potion, but he couldn’t. There was something he’d wanted to tell her, but he couldn’t remember now…
The room was dimly lit when he awoke again, and the curtains were drawn over the window. Ginny was there, watching him closely.
“Hi,” he whispered.
“Hi, yourself,” she said, rubbing his cheek with the palm of her hand. “How do you feel? My dad said you had a hard time earlier.”
Harry nodded, feeling foolish. What was wrong with him?
“It’s all right. There’s nothing to worry about,” Ginny said, continuing to rub his face.
“Have you been here all day?” he asked. His voice felt scratchy.
“No. Bill and Fleur were here before me, but they said you slept through their visit.”
“Oh,” Harry said, feeling odd that they were here watching him sleep.
“Are you hungry?” Ginny asked, grinning mischievously. She nodded toward a steaming bowl of soup on the table.
Harry scowled, remembering her delight over Mrs. Weasley feeding him that morning. “Very funny,” he said.
“Oh, Harry, if you could have seen your face,” she said, laughing. “Besides, you made Mum’s day. She’s always happiest when she can fuss over someone. The fact it was you only made it all the sweeter. I think she needed that.”
Harry would have done anything to make Mrs. Weasley feel better. If he succeeded with the only cost being a little embarrassment, he supposed he could live with that.
“Come on, you must be at least a little bit hungry. You can use the spoon yourself,” she said, moving the tray in front of him.
His stomach grumbled loudly. Perhaps he was a little hungry. The soup was rather bland, but it didn’t upset his stomach. He was able to finish most of it.
Ginny cleared it away for him, handing him a glass of water as she did. “Do you want to talk about whatever upset you earlier?” she asked casually.
Harry froze, the cup inches from his mouth.
“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” she said, pushing the cup to his lips. “Just, if you want, I’m here.”
Harry swallowed the water. “I know. It’s part of the whole story,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about it here, though.”
“Okay,” Ginny nodded. “I suppose it’s not very private.”
“Thanks for staying with me,” Harry said shyly, ducking his head.
“Always,” Ginny whispered, causing his heart to swell.
Ginny took his hand in hers, squeezing it lightly. He returned the pressure. “Is everyone else okay?” he asked.
Ginny nodded. “I think George had some sort of flashback yesterday, but he seems all right today. I think I had one, too.”
Harry squeezed her hand again. “That’s sort of what happened to me, earlier,” he admitted.
Ginny nodded sadly.
“Percy seemed perfectly fine after a good rest,” she said.
“That’s good. He scared me,” Harry admitted.
“Me, too. Ron is going to have a fit when he finds out you got hurt as soon as he left,” Ginny said.
“Don’t tell him, then. There’s nothing he can do from there, anyway. I’m fine,” Harry insisted.
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Right. He might find out, anyway. The press has been snooping around since there are rumors you’re here.”
“You know, the press will have a field day once they find out about us. They won’t leave you alone, and they probably won’t be very nice,” he said, beginning to worry.
“I don’t care,” she said blithely.
“I care,” Harry insisted.
“I know. But there is nothing that you can do about it, so worrying is pointless. We’ll just hold our heads high and strut out the door.”
“I don’t strut,” Harry mumbled.
“I’ll do the strutting then,” Ginny replied, grinning.
The two had a quiet but enjoyable evening together until the Mediwitch returned with another potion for Harry.
Herm ione was irritated. She glared at the tall red-head who sat across the room, facing away from her. She was hot, tired and incredibly anxious, and she couldn’t seem to organize her thoughts.
When they’d arrived in Sydney after a tedious delay in Germany at the International Portkey Office, Hermione’s nerves were already all a jitter. They’d agreed to travel like Muggles once they arrived since she wasn’t exactly certain where she was going or what anything looked like. She’d never been to Australia.
Under other circumstances, she would have found it fascinating and would’ve spent a few days in Sydney just looking around. She couldn’t focus on anything else but her parents, however. She just wanted to find them and undo the spell she had cast.
Unfortunately, it would take much longer to get to Adelaide than she’d expected. It would be so much easier if she could just Apparate. They had been told the quickest and easiest way would be to hitchhike across the continent. Although Ron was game, Hermione wanted no part of it. Aside from the danger, she didn’t think Ron would be able to remain inconspicuous for that long under close interaction with Muggles. He couldn’t even move past his fascination with the pop machines in the bus terminal.
Hermione found there was no direct bus route, so she’d purchased tickets on the Firefly Express to Adelaide via Melbourne. Each leg would take about twelve hours, so they decided to forego a stay in Sydney and get the first leg underway immediately. It probably hadn’t been the best idea. They were both so exhausted by the time they reached Melbourne, they’d collapsed in the hostel where they’d booked a room nearly without speaking.
After a hearty breakfast and a long walk to the bus station to stretch their legs, they took the next trip to Adelaide. It had been late when they arrived, so they really didn’t get an opportunity to look around. Ron needed to eat (again!), and then Hermione splurged and booked them a room in a hotel rather than another hostel.
Despite frayed tempers, they’d snuggled a bit before falling asleep, which Hermione thought had been very nice. It was good to have Ron all to herself. She’d been worried about leaving Harry behind, and she knew Ron was too, but now she was glad. Not only did it allow the time for snuggling, but Harry was still seventeen. Legal age for Muggles was eighteen, so it would have been much more of a hassle to explain why a minor was travelling internationally with two young people and no parental permission.
They’d had enough questions as it was in Germany.
The Ministry had tracked her parents’ travel to Adelaide, but it was up to Hermione to find them once there. She’d thought she’d be able to find their practice in the phone book, but upon checking, she’d found no dental practice of Wendell and Monica Wilkins.
Her parents must be working for someone else.
Hermione was ready to cry, but Ron had patted her back and assured her they would find them. Once she was thinking clearly, she began looking in the dental registry. She’d found her mother worked in an office not far from the hotel. She’d cast a Confundus Charm, the first bit of magic she’d used, to convince the receptionist to give her Monica’s home address.
Hermione had it now. Since tomorrow was Sunday, she expected her parents would be home. She just had to wait one more night. She could barely contain her agitation, and Ron wasn’t helping.
After dinner, they’d gone back up to the hotel room, and that’s when Ron had discovered the telly. He’d been enchanted by it ever since, and Hermione’s patience was ready to snap. She felt as if she had one nerve left, and he was jumping on it.
“Ron! You’ve been watching that thing for the past two hours. We need to go over our plan for tomorrow,” she finally exploded.
Ron’s eyes never left the telly. “We’ve been over the plan ten times, Hermione.”
“But we can’t afford for anything to go wrong,” she insisted.
“Something always goes wrong with our plans,” Ron harrumphed before catching himself. Taking a deep breath, he turned away from the telly and looked her in the eye. “Hermione, you have to relax. Your parents will be nervous if you’re wound so tight.”
“I know,” she sniffed. “But I can’t help it.”
Ron frowned a moment before his face brightened. “Do you think they have brandy on this room servy thingy?”
“Brandy?” Hermione asked blankly, not even bothering to correct him.
“Yeah. My dad always gives my mum some brandy in her tea when she gets all worked up,” he said.
“I am not ‘worked up,’” Hermione said indignantly.
Ron simply looked at her, his eyebrows arched.
Perhaps he was right. She was tense and needed to be calmer to see her parents. That made sense.
“I saw a Muggle shop on the corner that sells alcohol. I’m going to get a bottle of wine,” she said.
“Wine?” he asked. “I’ve never had wine. Well, except for the glass that poisoned me in sixth year.”
“I used to drink it at dinner occasionally with my parents,” she said. “It’s Muggle wine, not elf-made. I’ll be right back.”
“Okay,” Ron said, turning back to the telly.
Hermione barely had to leave the lobby of the hotel to find what she was seeking. Her parents had taught her a little bit about choosing a good wine, and she found a nice bottle of Riesling that wasn’t too expensive. When she returned to the room, she found Ron watching a rugby match and yelling at the players.
“Honestly, Ron. You don’t even know the first thing about rugby,” she said, pouring them each a glass of wine.
“This is brilliant, Hermione. Can you imagine how amazing it would be if we could find a way to show Quidditch matches like this? Instead of listening on the wireless, I could watch the Cannons play from home,” Ron said, nearly salivating at the idea.
“That would be truly amazing,” she said, rolling her eyes.
Ron missed the sarcasm. “I know, and every few minutes, they show pictures of food,” he said excitedly.
“Those are advertisements, Ron. They’re trying to convince you to buy their product,” she said, exasperated.
“It makes me hungry,” Ron replied.
“That’s the idea.”
Hermione had quickly downed her glass of wine, feeling the tension leaving her body. She felt warm, and her irritation with Ron faded. She sat beside him on the bed and attempted to watch the match, but she lost interest really quickly. She poured herself another glass of the wine, and was content to just sip this one.
She wasn’t certain exactly how it happened. Ron started tugging a tendril of her hair, rolling it between his fingers and curling it around. Soon his hand moved to her neck, lightly massaging the knots.
She sighed with pleasure, and he lost interest in the telly at last when he started kissing her. She wrapped her hands around his neck and didn’t resist as he leaned them both back on the bed.
Time had no meaning as they snogged, the rugby game continuing in the background. Her fuzzy brain thought it was Quidditch for a moment, and that made her remember the first Quidditch match Ron had played during sixth year. That caused her thoughts turn to Lavender Brown.
And that’s when Ron’s hand slipped under her shirt.
The fog lifted somewhat from Hermione’s mind. This couldn’t happen this way. She needed to know.
“Ron, stop,” she said, panting. She grabbed his wrist and firmly pulled it away.
“Sorry!” Ron said, his ears turning red. “I got carried away.” His hair was tousled, and he was breathing heavily.
“I know. I did, too. We need to talk,” she said firmly.
Ron suddenly looked very wary. He pulled himself up to a seated position and leaned against the headboard.
“About what?” he asked.
“I want to know how far you went with Lavender,” Hermione said.
That clearly hadn’t been what Ron expected to hear.
“You what? Why?”
“I want to know how far you went with Lavender,” Hermione repeated. “If we’re going to be intimate one day, and that day is definitely not going to be today, I need to know.” Her miserable sixth year had been plagued with thoughts and images of what Ron and Lavender were getting up to, no matter how hard she tried to insist she didn’t care. The thoughts had tormented her. She needed to close that chapter of her mind before she’d ever be able to move on with the story.
Ron was flabbergasted, and obviously stalling.
Hermione felt she deserved to know. “Well?” she asked.
“You snogged Krum,” he spluttered.
This fact had already been established.
“Yes, I snogged Viktor. I was fifteen and curious. He treated me like a girl. But snogging is all there was, and only a few times at that. I saw you and Lavender go further than I ever did in the common room. What happened when you slipped away?” she demanded.
“I was sixteen and curious,” Ron said, his eyes looked wild.
“How much did you satiate that curiosity?” Hermione asked. It was normal to be curious. It was all part of puberty. She knew that. But why did he have to be curious with Lavender Brown?
Ron remained silent, gaping.
“I know you snogged. Was there touching?” she asked.
“What? Hermione!” Ron looked ready to bolt from the room.
“It’s a yes or no question, Ronald. Was there touching?” she asked shrilly.
“Yes,” he admitted reluctantly.
“Over or under the clothes?” Hermione asked in a clinical tone.
“Both,” Ron said, agonized.
Hermione flinched, shutting her eyes. She could feel tears welling, but she had to know.
“Did you shag?” she asked, forcing the words out. Her voice sounded incredibly high-pitched, even to her own ears.
Ron jumped off the bed, holding his arms out in front of him as if fending her off. “NO! No, we never… No, okay. Never without our clothes, there was some groping, and… and… and… we kept our clothes on.”
“So grinding, then,” Hermione said mercilessly.
“Hermione! Don’t say that!” Ron pleaded. “It was a long time ago.”
“Did you?” she repeated, unable to stop herself.
“I’m not going to answer any more of these questions,” Ron said, shaking his head vigorously.
“That’s a yes, then,” Hermione said before bursting into tears.
Ron stood stock still except for his mouth, which opened and closed repeatedly. When he could take no more, he moved toward the bed cautiously, as if worried she’d attack him.
She hiccupped against the sheet she’d pulled up to her face.
“Hermione,” Ron said helplessly, “look, I know you’re worried about everything, but you don’t have to worry about me. I want to be with you. Only with you.”
He put his arms around her and she leaned into his shoulder, feeling a bit dizzy and spent. She looked up at him through teary eyes, unable to completely focus.
“I think you’ve had enough of this,” Ron said, taking the wine away. “Come on, let’s get some sleep. Tomorrow we’re going to collect your parents, have a smashing reunion, and plan a ride on an aeroplane.”
Hermione wiped her tears, snuggling in closer and hoping he was right.
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