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SIYE Time:7:07 on 21st October 2018


Some Cuts Leave Scars
By melindaleo

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Category: Post-DH/AB
Characters:None
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Romance
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 287
Summary: Not all wounds heal completely – many scars aren’t readily visible. Join Harry and his friends as they journey through the year following the war, learning how to maneuver over hurdles both unique and lingering. An 8th-year sequel to the summer of These Cuts I Have.
Hitcount: Story Total: 32061; Chapter Total: 1783
Awards: View Trophy Room






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Chapter Eight
Witches and Bitches



“There has to be a better way to spend a Friday night,” Siobhan said, tossing a Jelly Slug in the air and catching it as it fell. Some of the red liquid squirted through her lips as she bit into it. She didn’t appear all that fussed and swiped at it with the back of her hand.

Ginny and her dormitory mates were gathered around the fire in the Gryffindor common room, eating all the sweets they’d managed to find and challenging one another to games of Exploding Snap. For once, they weren’t inundated with homework and instead were enjoying a relaxed evening. Some of the other years who weren’t so fortunate, however, kept shooting annoyed looks at the group of seventh-year girls each time the pitch of their laughter increased.

“Perhaps we should move our games up to the dormitory,” Hermione said, glancing worriedly at a group of fifth-years who were giving them decidedly nasty looks.

“Oh, but the fire down here is so lovely, and I’m not ready to get into bed yet,” Ginny said. Siobhan was right, she wanted to do something. Harry was on duty, so there wasn’t even the promise of a conversation to entice her.

“Or how about a kitchen run?” Siobhan asked, equally unimpressed with Hermione’s suggestion.

After Harry had shown Ginny where the kitchens were in her fifth year, she and Siobhan had made a habit of sneaking food back to the common room. It had been a dicey expedition because if they’d been caught by the Carrows, there would’ve been hell to pay. Like Dumbledore’s Army, however, it felt good to get away with something right under their noses.

“I wouldn’t mind stretching my legs,” Liz said, sitting up from where she’d been sprawled on the floor and sending sweet wrappers everywhere. She stared at them unconcernedly.

“I don’t know if I could eat another thing, but hot chocolate sounds divine,” Parvati said. She was lying on one of the couches with her feet on the top and her long, sleek hair hanging off the edge.

“I have an idea,” Ginny said slowly, looking at each of the other girls in turn, sizing them up.

“What is it?” Hermione asked warily, familiar with the mischievous look in Ginny’s eyes.

“Let’s ask the elves for some hot chocolate to take away, then we can bring it up to the Room of Requirement,” Ginny said. Her curiosity about the room’s fate hadn’t abated since her failed attempted to check on it the day of the Hogsmeade visit.

“I thought you said it was destroyed,” Liz said, tilting her head to the side. Another sweet wrapper fell out of her hair.

“But don’t you wonder if it was able to repair itself?” Ginny asked. “We could hang around in there without disturbing anyone trying to revise — maybe even turn on the Wireless.”

“Ooh, yes, let’s do it. I’m so bored. Even if it’s not there, at least it will be an adventure going to see,” Siobhan said.

“I dunno. Making a kitchen run and going exploring on the seventh floor without the Invisibility Cloak. It seems like a big risk of getting caught out of bounds,” Hermione said, but Ginny knew she wanted to go. She wouldn’t be thinking about the Invisibility Cloak, otherwise. She knew as soon as she mentioned wanting to find out what had happened to the room that Hermione’s curiosity would override her caution.

“I’ll risk it,” Parvati said, her dark eyes dancing merrily. “We could use the DA coins to tell Padma. She and I have been using them from our dormitories.”

“Oh, and she should bring Luna,” Ginny said brightly.

“Why don’t we go and see if it’s there first, before we tell the others to join us?” Hermione said. “I suppose if you’re with me, and we run into another Prefect, they might not make a fuss.”

“Hang on. We might not have Harry’s Cloak, but I do have the map. That way we can at least see if the coast is clear,” Ginny said, standing up and moving toward the stairs to the dormitories.

“You have the map?” Hermione asked sharply, her eyes widening.

“What map?” Liz asked.

“When did he give you the map?” Hermione asked, looking rather stunned.

Ginny hadn’t thought of this. The map had always been something between Harry, Ron and Hermione. Ginny hadn’t even known it existed until she’d started dating Harry, and they’d used it to find secluded spots to snog. Perhaps Hermione wouldn’t like the fact Ginny had it now.

“Er… he gave it to me the night before term started. He thought I’d get more use out of it,” Ginny said tentatively, biting her lip. She hoped Hermione wasn’t upset. She wondered if there would ever come a day where she actually felt a part of their tight-knit group and not an interloper.

“What map?” Liz repeated.

“Let me get it, and I’ll show you,” Ginny said, turning and fleeing the common room and Hermione’s intense stare. She sprinted up to her dormitory and pulled the map from her trunk. When she returned to the common room, slightly breathless, her roommates were all gathered around the portrait hole awaiting her.

She opened the map and uttered the password before she was in hearing distance of the others, keeping it concealed until it was fully activated. Checking that the corridor outside the portrait hole was empty, she led them all through. The others got their first good look at the Marauder’s Map as they bustled down the corridor.

“That’s bloody amazing,” Siobhan said. “Look, I can see Romilda Vane at Andrew’s table in the library. She’s been hanging around him a lot lately.”

Ginny grinned. “Worried you have some competition for Andrew’s affections? I thought you didn’t like him that way.”

“I don’t, but he can still do better than Romilda,” Siobhan said hotly.

“So this is how you three got away with so much,” Parvati said, looking at Hermione. "I remember Harry using it during DA meetings, but I never had a good look.”

Hermione nodded. “It certainly came in handy. It belonged to Harry’s dad,” she said, staring hard at Ginny.

“I’ll give it back,” Ginny said quickly, feeling defensive.

Hermione smiled. “You’d have to be really important to him for him to share something so sentimental.”

Ignoring the other girls’ sighs of ‘aww,’ Ginny felt heat rising to her face. Hermione reached out and squeezed her hand while Siobhan made mock-simpering noises.

“Shut it, Siobhan,” Ginny said, pleased. Hermione wasn’t upset she had the map, at all. Ginny was being foolish. Hermione had been championing for Ginny all along. It wasn’t Harry’s feelings she felt insecure about, however, it was more how she fit into their trio. The fact Hermione was happy that Ginny had the map felt very much like acceptance.

“Last year, when we were on the run, Harry often stared at that map just watching your dot. I think it was his way of assuring himself that you were all right,” Hermione said. “He tried to be discreet about it, but even Ron knew what he was doing. Well… after I pointed it out to him, anyway.”

Ginny was certain the heat emanating from her was enough to warm the whole castle. She knew a bit of that story, but it was nice to hear it all the same. “Thanks, Hermione. I wish I’d had some way to know you lot were all right, as well.”

“It all worked out in the end,” Hermione said, squeezing Ginny’s hand again.

They reached the tapestry of Barnaby the Barmy without incident, and the blank wall stood before them.

“So, do we get to hear the story now? What do we ask the room to be?” Liz asked.

Hermione and Ginny glanced at each other. “I think we should try where the fire began,” Hermione said.

“What fire?” Parvati asked. “What in Merlin’s name are you two on about?”

“I’ll do it,” Hermione said.

“There was a fire in the room during the Battle while Harry, Ron and Hermione were inside,” Ginny explained to the other girls. “D’you remember how Harry came to the castle looking for something? It was in here, in the Room of Requirement.”

A door had appeared in front of Hermione. “Well, that’s good,” she said, sounding very un-Hermione-like. She stared at the doorknob hesitantly.

“I’ll do it,” Ginny said, reaching for the handle and pushing the door open to find… nothing. The room was completely empty. There were no burn marks, the walls were unmarked, and the air was fresh and clean, but there was nothing inside but a vast, open space.

“I asked for the room where everything was hidden,” Hermione said. “But everything that was hidden was burned. I think this room is here to start collecting new things.”

“The room survived, just not the things. I suppose that makes sense,” Ginny said, marveling at the wonder that was Hogwarts.

“Okay, so we know it’s still here. Come out and let it seal up so we can ask for another room,” Siobhan said, pulling Ginny back outside. Once she’d stepped foot outside, the door disappeared, and the wall reformed.

“So… what do we want?” asked Parvati.

“I’ll do this one,” Siobhan said, moving to stand in front of the wall and shutting her eyes.

When the door appeared again, Siobhan quickly pushed it open, revealing a replica of the Gryffindor common room only with many more of the good, cushy chairs by the fire. The hearth was huge and blazing, and there were several tables set up with various games. One table was devoted to copies of Witch Weekly, while yet another held a Wireless playing the latest Weird Sisters song. There were large posters on the walls depicting various singers, Quidditch teams, and a vast number of wizards sans shirts.

“It’s perfect,” Liz said, beaming.

Parvati already had her DA coin out, and her fingers were flying over it, presumably sending a message to her sister.

“Tell her to bring Luna,” Ginny said, pulling out her own coin. Although there was no longer a need to use it, she wasn’t able to drop the habit of keeping it on her at all times. Ginny quickly sent a message to Demelza, as well. Although the sixth-year had been working on her homework when they’d left, Ginny thought she might like to join them. Tomorrow’s match was Ravenclaw vs. Hufflepuff, so there would be plenty of time to get her revision done.

“Come on, Ginny. Bring that delightful map, and we’ll make a run to the kitchen,” Siobhan said.

The two girls made the long trek to the kitchen, having to backtrack once when they’d nearly run into Mrs. Norris. The house-elves had laden them with a jug of hot chocolate, as well as a variety of biscuits and tasty treats. By the time they’d returned to their new hideaway, Padma, Luna and Demelza had joined the group, who were all singing along to the Weird Sisters.

An impromptu party of sorts took place with lots of shrieks of laughter and a sharing of Hogwarts gossip. It was later in the evening when a particularly popular song played on the Wireless, and all the girls had jumped up to dance when a feeling of melancholy washed over Ginny.

She moved over to one of the comfy chairs by the fire and sank down into it. It wasn’t long before Siobhan noticed her and took the chair next to hers.

“All right, Ginny?” she asked, her bright blue eyes wide.

“Yeah. I was thinking how much Anna would’ve enjoyed this,” Ginny said, feeling gloomy. Her former roommate, Anna, had been a huge Weird Sisters fan.

“Oh,” Siobhan said, a slow, sad smile forming on her pale face. “You’re right. She would’ve. I can still remember how she sulked for nearly a month when she learned her cousins and older sister were going to a concert, but her parents wouldn’t let her take the time off from school during OWL revision.”

Ginny laughed. “She was so angry. Even when her sister sent her that T-shirt, Anna wasn’t certain if she was being kind or just rubbing it in.”

“I miss Anna,” Siobhan said. By now, the other girls had overheard their conversation and came to join them around the fire.

“I saw her, you know, that night, before she died,” Ginny said, whispering. “I found her out on the grounds struggling to reach the castle. She said she wanted to go home.”

“You never told us that,” Liz said, her voice cracking.

“When I was out there, I thought I felt someone pass me. Harry later told me it was him under the Invisibility Cloak on his way out to the forest,” Ginny said, her throat raw.

“Can I ask you something?” Padma said, her eyes boring into Ginny.

“Depends,” Ginny replied.

“Well, we were all here during the Battle—”

“I wasn’t,” Demelza interrupted. “I wanted to stay, but Professor McGonagall wouldn’t hear of it. I don’t turn seventeen until December.” Demelza was the only sixth-year student amongst their group.

“All right, so the rest of us were here,” Padma said, stressing her words to draw the conversation back on track. “We all saw how impressive Harry was during that duel, but I can’t help wondering about some of the things they said. I think they were talking about the Elder Wand.”

“You mean from the Beedle the Bard stories?” Liz asked.

“Yes, but the Elder Wand actually does exist,” Padma said. “My father always calls it the Death Stick.”

“She’s right,” Hermione said, glancing at Ginny. The Ministry had spread the story that Voldemort believed the tale of the Elder Wand, and Harry merely went along with it as part of a ruse. Nothing about the Horcruxes were ever confirmed, and both girls had to be certain to stick to the Ministry story. “There have been documented cases throughout history of the wand’s existence, so Voldemort wanted it. He thought it would help him beat Harry.”

“So, he didn’t really have it, then?” Padma asked.

“I don’t know,” Hermione said, looking down as she repeated the Ministry story. “He thought he did.”

“I do know that Harry still has his own wand, the same one he got when he was eleven,” Ginny said, aware she was a far better liar than Hermione. “The Ministry destroyed the wand Voldemort used so no one else would get any ideas about an unbeatable wand.”

“So, even if he did have it, it’s gone now? What made Voldemort think he had the real one?” Padma asked.

“The details are rather tricky since we weren’t with him, of course,” Hermione said. Even those who knew about the connection between Harry and Voldemort didn’t understand the full extent, or how far Harry had ventured into Voldemort’s mind. “I do know how it started, though. Harry and Voldemort’s wands shared a core, so they didn’t work properly against each other. That’s how Harry was able to escape him so often. Voldemort went looking for another wand to beat him.”

“And we all know how much stock he put in lore. The reason he went after Harry in the first place was because he believed in some old prophecy,” Ginny said, scathingly.

“Oh, but prophecies are real. Professor Trelawny says so. And… Harry did defeat him, after all,” Parvati said. She was still very taken with Divination.

Ginny was struck by the difference between the sisters. She thought that if Hermione had been Sorted into Ravenclaw, she and Padma would’ve become better friends than she ever had with Parvati. Ginny was happy Hermione ended up in Gryffindor.

“It only came true because Voldemort went after the Potters in the first place. He made it come true,” Ginny said hotly. She felt an overwhelming urge to roll her eyes at herself. She was so focused on sticking to the Ministry-approved story that she thought she sounded like Percy.

“So, all that Chosen One business was true?” Demelza asked.

“Basically,” Ginny said, shrugging.

“We all thought he’d finally gone ‘round the twist when you lot showed up here saying you needed to find something but didn’t know what,” Siobhan said, chuckling.

“Yeah. What was that all about? Obviously, you found whatever you were looking for since he was destroyed,” Liz said, staring at Hermione.

“Harry was under a great deal of stress at the time. I think he had to find the pieces of his courage to do what he did,” Luna said, staring at two different biscuits with intensity. She finally selected one and popped it in her mouth. When she noticed the others were all staring at her blankly, she added. “Well, I think it took a great deal of courage to stand there and take a Killing Curse.”

Ginny shuddered. She hated to imagine what that had been like. Harry had told her all about his lonely walk into the forest, and he’d even admitted he’d never been so terrified in his life. For Harry to acknowledge it, Ginny couldn’t bear to think about it. She wasn’t certain anyone could truly appreciate the sacrifice he had made.

“Professor Dumbledore left Harry a mission — something he had been working on before he died that enabled Harry to finally defeat Voldemort. That’s all I can say about it,” Hermione said firmly.

“Never mind what you were looking for, I want to know what it was like living with the two of them all year. Where did you stay?” Parvati asked, leaning forward on her elbows.

Hermione let out a bark of laughter. “Most of it involved living in a tent, and I realized quickly that boys smell bad.”

Ginny, who had grown up in a house full of brothers, knew this wasn’t an exaggeration. “Can they ever,” she said.

“Did you just keep moving around? How did you avoid the Snatchers? Harry’s face was plastered everywhere,” Liz asked.

Hermione’s face grew drawn. “We never stayed in one place for long, but they did get us eventually. Harry had always used Voldemort’s name, and getting used to saying ‘You-Know-Who’ didn’t come naturally. The jinx caught us, but we were able to get away,” Hermione said, her eyes clouded. She pressed her hand to the thin scar on her neck where Bellatrix Lestrange’s cursed blade had dug into her throat.

“Well, we all know you found whatever you needed since we won, but I still want to know about living with the boys. How awkward was it for you and Ron to have Harry around?” Parvati asked.

“Come on, spill it, Hermione. I think even poor Lavender knew there was something between you and Ron,” Padma added. “I don’t know how Harry could stand it sometimes.”

And there were the sisters showing their similarity.

“Did you manage to snog?” Parvati asked.

Ginny crinkled her nose. Why did it always end up back here? “Hello. Still here, and I don’t want to hear about this,” she said, waving her hand in the air.

“Shut it, Ginny,” Siobhan said, tossing a pillow at her. “Well, Hermione?”

Hermione’s cheeks flushed. “Sorry, but we really didn’t. The first time Ron kissed me was here at the castle during the Battle. Harry was about as impressed with our timing as Ginny here.”

“Did you snog Harry then? Ginny thinks he’s quite snoggable,” Luna said, her eyes wide,

“Of course not. I’ve never thought of Harry that way,” Hermione said, scandalized. She cast a quick, apologetic look towards Ginny, who grinned. She knew from a very young age that it was Ron whom Hermione fancied, and a part of her would always be grateful for that.

“Aside from Ginny, no one knew for certain you were with Harry, though we all suspected it was true,” Liz said. “Brynn Dempsey insisted you were together romantically.”

“That’s only because she doesn’t like Ginny,” Demelza said, rolling her eyes.

“She doesn’t like Ginny because Ginny makes her feel bad about herself,” Luna said, her protuberant eyes blinking slowly. “Brynn often does things that aren’t very nice, and Ginny calls her on it.”

“What? You mean like the fact she’s a spiteful cow?” Ginny asked.

“Exactly like that,” Luna said, nodding.

“Despite what Rita Skeeter said, there has never been anything romantic between Harry and me,” Hermione said firmly.

“Why not, though? Sorry, Ginny, but he is really cute. Who knew he’d grow into those glasses and awful hair the way he did?” Padma asked.

“I did. I knew. I always thought he was cute,” Ginny said, glaring.

“You liked his story,” Parvati said, rolling her eyes so that Ginny wanted to poke them out.

“Actually, the first time I met him was at King’s Cross before his first year. He asked my mum how to get onto the platform. We didn’t know who he was at the time, and I thought he was cute then. So there,” Ginny said, sticking her chin in the air defiantly.

“How come he didn’t know how to get on the platform? Don’t they tell Muggle-borns how to do it? How did you get on, Hermione?” Liz asked.

“Oh, I had explicit directions from Professor McGonagall. I don’t think Harry did, though. Hagrid was the one who brought him his letter,” Hermione said, shrugging. The others all nodded as if that explained everything.

“He was left alone at the train station? That’s odd. Do Muggles do that to their kids a lot?” Demelza asked. “Is that not a big deal in the Muggle world?”

Hermione raised her head indignantly. “No! Most Muggles would never leave their kids in a busy train station, alone, without knowing where they were going. Harry’s relatives definitely don’t represent all Muggles.”

“I remember Colin telling me that he was so excited the first time he did it that he kept running back outside the barrier so he could go through again,” Ginny said, smiling fondly.

“That sounds like Colin,” Liz said, sharing the same wistful smile.

“I think Colin would’ve liked being stuck in a tent with Harry as much as Ginny would,” Demelza said, laughing.

Ginny threw a pillow at her. “To Colin,” she said, raising her mug in the air. They all shared a toast to each Colin, Lavender, and Anna.

“I think the reason Hermione never fancied Harry is because she was always over the moon about Ron,” Parvati said at last, drawing them out of their remembrance. “Even when she pretended that she wasn’t. It must’ve been cozy being on the run together.”

“Let me get this straight, the three of you shared one bathroom all this time. That must’ve been awkward,” Padma said.

“It could be. I finally made a rule that once a week I was allowed to take a long, hot soak, and both of them had to clear out of the tent while I did so. One night, it started pouring on them, but I didn’t realize, and I kept shouting at them to get out every time I heard them try and come back inside the tent. They were more drenched than me when I finally came out of the washroom,” Hermione said, laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes.

“So, you weren’t terrified all the time, then?” Padma asked.

Hermione paused a moment, pondering. “No, not all the time, but there were definitely some terrifying moments. Things I certainly never want to live through again. Now that some time has passed, I find the smaller moments are what come back to me, though. I remember when I showed Ron how to play some Muggle card games, and when Harry fell asleep one night while he was supposed to be on guard duty. We only knew because he must’ve keeled over to one side and knocked down one of the tent poles so the whole thing collapsed on Ron and me.”

“So you and Ron were sleeping alone in the tent then?” Parvati asked eagerly.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “You’re impossible. I told you, we never even kissed before the Battle.”

“That doesn’t mean you weren’t thinking about it — all alone there in the tent with him. His presence must’ve been suffocating,” Liz said gleefully.

“Were you able to ignore it when you knew either of them was wanking?” Luna asked curiously.

Shrieks and laughter filled the room so loudly it nearly shook. Liz hid her face in her hands, and Siobhan laughed so hard, she fell off her chair and stayed on the floor, still laughing.

“Luna!” Hermione said, shocked.

“What? You were gone for nearly a year. Did they pretend not to notice when it was your turn? Although, Ron was never very tactful,” Luna said, apparently oblivious to the uproar she was causing.

Hermione appeared to have been struck speechless as she stared at Luna with her mouth gaping. Ginny patted her on the back because she was afraid Hermione had forgotten how to breathe. Her friend raised a hand to tug at her impossibly bushy hair, attempting to salvage her dignity.

“I would think if you found it disconcerting to be sleeping so close to him, it must’ve made him feel the same. Ron tends to act first and think later, and Harry was probably missing Ginny very much, so he’d remember things that could arouse him,” Luna said, soldiering on.

“Oh, for the love of Merlin’s saggy buttocks,” Ginny said, holding her stomach. It actually hurt from laughing. “Luna, sometimes your thoughts ought to remain private.”

Luna merely blinked at her. “Oh. I thought we were talking about what it would be like to share a tent with two teenage boys, especially one you fancied.”

“I honestly tried not to think about it with them, but why do you think I demanded privacy for my weekly bath?” Hermione asked, finally finding her voice. There was the Gryffindor that Ginny knew Hermione had in her.

There were more shrieks and laughter, several of the girls tossing pillows at each other as their raucous squeals continued. Finally, Padma was the one who tried to regain some order.

“All right, ladies. It’s after midnight, and on that note, I think we should all head back to our dormitories before we’re caught out of bounds.”

The others began gathering their things. Ginny checked the map to be certain the coast was clear for Luna and Padma to get back to Ravenclaw Tower un-accosted. Before they’d left the room, however, Luna had one parting comment that caused them all to dissolve into giggles once again.

“And if I decide to wank, I won’t share my thoughts about it at breakfast tomorrow.”

ooOOoo



The cubicles in the Auror Department were decorated with jack-o-lanterns, and cut-outs of various bats and spiders hung from the ceiling. The Ministry was bursting with color and had orange and black streamers lining the walls. Halloween was approaching, and the Ministry workers were preparing for a celebration. Harry stared dully at the various decorations as he trudged his way through the crowded room toward Owen’s cubicle. Since he was technically still in training, Harry hadn’t been assigned his own cubicle yet.

He had spent his day keeping watch over the Dementors in the Forest of Dean, and he really wanted to go home for a kip. The Dementors were exhausting, and they even managed to suck the joy out of flying — something that he’d always found exhilarating. He propped his broom next to Owen’s desk and wearily sank into the chair, leaning his head back and letting his eyes drift shut. He’d promised his partner he’d swing by the Ministry to check if there were any developments on their murder investigation.

There hadn’t been any new leads, and the examination of the body confirmed the witch had indeed been killed by a Killing Curse. The trail had gone cold, however. A team had swept the shop for clues, but they hadn’t found anything of interest, no one had claimed responsibility, and none of the other attacks on pure-bloods had gone so far as murder. The witch had been identified as Agnes Heatherton, and she’d run the illicit book shop for years without law entanglements.

Harry sighed, pulling out a stack of parchment from Owen’s in-tray. On top was a flyer announcing a Ministry Halloween party. Harry stared at it in consternation. He’d never put a lot of thought into the holiday. When he was a child, the Dursleys hadn’t been keen on it. Even when they’d given in to Dudley’s tantrums about going out for Trick-or-Treat, Harry hadn’t been allowed to go. At Hogwarts, he’d always enjoyed the feast, but he’d never really given a lot of thought to the implications of the holiday.

The war had changed that. Facing Voldemort had made him truly appreciate all his parents had sacrificed on the fateful Halloween night seventeen years ago. They’d each faced their own imminent demise, as well. Harry had managed to cope during the walk to his own fate with his parents’ support. They were the ones who should’ve been there all along. It should’ve been them who saw him off on the Hogwarts Express rather than Ron’s parents. His mum should’ve been the one to be there when he awoke all those times in the hospital wing. His dad should’ve been the one to give him an awkward sex talk rather than George Weasley. All those should’ve-beens had changed in an instant.

Somehow, the thought of attending a party turned his stomach. He put the flyer back in Owen’s in-tray and looked through the rest of the stack. There was nothing pending on their murder investigation, so he was free to go home at last. His body was so tired, it ached.

As he moved the stack of correspondence back to its place, he noticed the headline on the Daily Prophet. His stomach dropped as his eyes scanned the ensuing article with mounting horror.


Boy Who Lived Mysterious Connection to the Dark Lord Continues
By Rita Skeeter


I’m certain all my avid and loyal readers will remember when I exposed the odd behavior of the Boy Who Lived during the Tri-wizard Tournament. As you will recall, a then adolescent Harry Potter entered the contest whilst he was underage, despite numerous safeguards that had been put in place by former Headmaster Albus Dumbledore to prevent such an occurrence. Of course, it was later revealed that You-Know-Who had allegedly orchestrated the entire fiasco in order to abduct Mr. Potter.

At the time, there had been multiple reports of our young rebel complaining about his scar hurting, and that he frequently collapsed and had to be removed from class. Naturally, this all could be put down to a young adolescent trying to ditch his studies, but curiously, my frequent inquiries into the matter were repeatedly brushed off. Albus Dumbledore, who had an unusually close relationship with the Boy Who Lived (that you can read all about in my exclusive biography on the former Headmaster) explained Mr. Potter’s actions as lingering trauma from the curse that failed to kill him as a baby. I’ve yet to find medical evidence of a curse scar acting in such a way.

During the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry Potter yet again seemed to have a lot of inside information on the mysterious activities of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. There had been a vast number of months where both of the combatants had been out of the public eye, and no one appeared certain of their whereabouts. During that time, Mr. Potter had been on the run, allegedly seeking a way to destroy the Dark Lord, hiding from both You-Know-Who and the Ministry which sought to question him. As we all know, Mr. Potter did eventually defeat his nemesis.

More recently, however, there was a murder in Knockturn Alley that has been kept very hush-hush. Mr. Potter is yet again embroiled in the midst of this mysterious death. This reporter, through tireless investigation and selfless disregard of her own safety, has discovered there was indeed a link between Mr. Potter and said former villain. A link that had been kept quiet from the public by those in authority who have been trusted to protect our security and well-being. In fact, an Auror was overheard interrogating Mr. Potter on the possibility of his having more information on the current Dark and elicit activities involved in the murder of this innocent witch than he was letting on.

Call this reporter both alarmed and concerned that yet again, Mr. Potter is at the crux of another attempt at forbidden Dark magic. He appears to be drawn to such activity, unable to escape its calling, and we, the people, need our leaders to keep a very close watch on him to ensure we don’t have another uprising on our hands.


That bitch!

She made it sound as if he, Harry, was queuing up to be the next Tom Riddle. There was no mention of the fact he was there as an Auror investigating the crime. She’d even managed to make the parts she had right sound sordid. Hadn’t he spent the past year living in a tent and surviving on mushrooms so that Rita bloody Skeeter could continue her pampered lifestyle? And where had her information come from, anyway? Harry remembered that Owen had made a joke about his connection to Voldemort while they’d been in Knockturn Alley, but he couldn’t recall exactly what had been said. They’d been interrupted by the arrival of that witch from the Confederation…Terra Munch.

She’d been at the train station that day he’d been mobbed by reporters, too, and although he hadn’t seen her in the cafeteria on the day his last conversation had been overheard and reported, it didn’t mean she hadn’t been there. She’d said she did a lot of business at the Ministry.

Pulling out a piece of parchment, Harry scrawled a quick message to Percy Weasley asking what he knew about Terra Munch. If anyone had the inside scoop on the players at the Ministry, it would be Percy. Harry folded his missive into a paper airplane and spelled it to fly up to Percy’s office.

Fuming, Harry grabbed his broom and stormed from the area, hoping to avoid contact with anyone. He was in a foul mood, and he didn’t think the tentative hold he had on his temper would survive a confrontation. He stalked through the corridors and into the thankfully empty lift, wanting nothing more than to get home to think calmly. As he continued his angry march toward the Apparition point, he saw several eager people trying to get his attention, but he ignored them all. There was always someone who wanted to chat with the Boy Who Lived. Perhaps once they read the article, they’d start cowering instead of fawning. That was the usual pattern at Hogwarts, anyway.

He Disapparated without really thinking about it, and was therefore surprised to find himself not on the steps of Grimmauld Place, but in the familiar, overgrown garden at the Burrow. He’d obviously been more upset than he’d realized because he wasn’t even certain how he’d ended up here, but he knew he was lucky he hadn’t Splinched himself. Before he could even consider correcting his error, the kitchen door swung open, revealing the smiling face of Molly Weasley.

“Harry!” she said, sounding truly delighted to see him. That was one thing he’d always appreciated about the Burrow — someone was always happy to have him there. Swinging the kitchen door wide, she greeted him with a bone-crushing hug that he melted into, resting his head on her shoulder. Something must’ve alerted her to his distress, for she held on and didn’t let go until he finally pulled back from her greeting. Embarrassed, he couldn’t meet her eyes and instead scuffed his foot on the ground, still standing in the doorway of the well-worn kitchen.

She curled her arm through his and pulled him over to the kitchen table. “Sit down, dear. Dinner is almost ready, but we can start with a cup of tea until Arthur joins us. I’m so pleased you decided to drop by. It gets so quiet here without a crowd.”

She used her wand on the kettle, and placed two cups on the table side-by-side. He was grateful to her for at least pretending that he’d meant to be here. The tea was steaming, and it helped to settle his fragile emotions. The kitchen was so familiar and calming that Harry felt his mood lightening. There was a jack-o-lantern sitting on the counter, and Harry realized this was the first Halloween he’d ever been here. He’d always been at school in the past. He didn’t know if Mrs. Weasley usually decorated or not. With Fred missing, some things could just never be the same, but he was pleased by the understated tone nonetheless.

“Tell me, how are you and Ron coping with the cooking? Is Ron still skiving off his share of kitchen duty?” she asked.

Harry’s eyes opened wide. He hadn’t mentioned anything about Ron’s abysmal cooking skills.

“Don’t give me that wide-eyed stare. I raised him, I know what he gets up to. Bill, Percy and the twi… er, and George are all able to navigate a kitchen. Charlie, Ron, and Ginny — not so much,” Mrs. Weasley said, looking down and taking a sip of her own tea.

Harry glanced at her, worried her slip about Fred would send her into tears. Harry would do anything for her, but he didn’t think he could cope just then. Thankfully, Mrs. Weasley pulled herself together.

“Ginny and Charlie never wanted to learn, and Ron wouldn’t put in the effort. Are you doing all the cooking? How are you managing?” she asked.

“Er… we tend to have take-away on Ron’s nights,” Harry admitted sheepishly.

“I thought as much,” Mrs. Weasley said, sniffing.

“It’s all right. I don’t mind cooking. I think I finally have your steak and kidney pie right,” he said with a small bit of pride.

Mrs. Weasley beamed. “All it takes is a bit of practice. I never get a new recipe exactly right the first time, either.” She looked up as Mr. Weasley’s hand on the family clock moved to ‘traveling.’ “Oh, here comes Arthur. I’ll get the plates, you get the cutlery,” she said, bustling from the table.

Harry happily helped her set the table, remembering a comment Ron had made about guests sitting and family doing chores. Mrs. Weasley placed a hot chicken pie on the table just as Mr. Weasley opened the kitchen door. He greeted Mrs. Weasley with a kiss, and walked over to shake Harry’s hand.

“It’s good to see you, Harry.”

“Good to see you, too, sir.”

As they sat down to eat, and Mrs. Weasley served Harry a heaping portion, he found he really wasn’t very hungry. He swirled his fork around on his plate, moving the crumbling pie around more than putting anything in his mouth.

“I understand you’ve seen Rita’s new rubbish in today’s edition,” Mr. Weasley said without preamble.

Harry looked up, stunned.

“I heard you were down in the Auror department with it this afternoon,” Mr. Weasley answered quietly.

Harry supposed he’d never be able to get away with anything at the Ministry. There was always someone watching him.

He shrugged, viciously stabbing a carrot on his plate. “I saw it,” he said baldly.

“That woman makes her living off tormenting other people. She should learn a bit of decency and gratitude. I never noticed her out there when there was fighting to be done while Voldemort took over. She sat back and followed orders, keeping her head down like the rest of the hags at the Prophet,” Mrs. Weasley said with her nose in the air.

“Rita Skeeter has always lived to cause trouble. She takes a tiny bit of truth and spins it into the story she wants to tell rather than the actual news,” Mr. Weasley said calmly. “Don’t let her get under your skin, lad. She’s reaching and looking to see what kind of reaction she can stir.”

“I know, but… how did she find out about the link?” Harry asked the question that had been sitting like lead in his belly. If the rest of the wizarding world ever learned he’d had a piece of Voldemort’s soul living inside him, he’d never hear the end of it. It would be a hundred times worse than knowing Parseltongue — which he couldn’t do anymore, anyway. Not that it would matter.

“She doesn’t know anything,” Mr. Weasley stated firmly. “She’s grasping at those old rumors. The only people who know about that link who aren’t in this room are people you’ve told, people you trust. Even what’s left of the Order don’t know the full story.”

“I do end up in the center of a lot of Dark magic, though,” Harry said, looking up through his lashes at Mr. Weasley.

“And that isn’t your fault. Your connection to V— Voldemort was unique. You’re going to be an Auror, you’re naturally going to come across instances of Dark magic. That doesn’t mean you’re in any way to blame for them. Harry, that piece that resided in you — that was something that was done to you, not something you did. It was never you,” Mr. Weasley said, gently laying his hand on Harry’s arm.

Despite knowing that what Mr. Weasley said was true, it felt nice to hear it all the same. Harry took a bite of his chicken.

“I’m glad to hear you’re investigating something besides those Dementors all the time,” Mrs. Weasley said huffily. “No one should be around those foul creatures for extended periods. It’s not healthy.”

“Now, Molly. We all agree it’s not a perfect plan, but it’s not permanent, either,” Mr. Weasley said.

“And there haven’t been any new Dementor attacks since we started,” Harry said. Gawain Robards had pointed that out at their last meeting. It was the one thing that made being around the creatures more bearable.

Mrs. Weasley walked over to a side dresser and picked up a copy of the Daily Prophet. Harry noticed the top of the dresser had various photographs of the Weasley kids at various ages. The one in front was one he hadn’t seen before. It was Ginny and him in the common room playing a game of Exploding Snap. They were really young, perhaps first- and second-years. Harry didn’t remember the picture being taken, but it looked like Colin Creevey’s work. Perhaps Ginny had placed it there in honor of her departed friend.

“What is this about you being interrogated by an Auror?” Mrs. Weasley asked, frowning as she perused the article.

“That part is true, sort of,” Harry said, swallowing a bit of the chicken pie. “Owen Savage and I were talking about a link to Voldemort. It was more of a joke than an interrogation, though. Rita forgot to mention I was working and not the suspect.”

“Hmm,” Mrs. Weasley said, pursing her lips. Harry was unexpectedly reminded of Professor McGonagall.

“Could the Skeeter woman have overhead you?” Mr. Weasley asked.

“I suppose,” Harry said, shrugging, knowing Rita had a sure-fire way of going unnoticed. “I think someone else might be tipping her off, though.”

“You sound as if you have someone in mind,” Mr. Weasley said shrewdly.

“Do you know a witch called Terra Munch from the International Confederation of Wizards?” Harry asked.

Mr. Weasley paused a moment, his brow furrowed in concentration. “Can’t say that I do. Why?”

“She keeps turning up, and she was there right as Savage and I were talking the other day. She’s been after me to give an interview to the Confederation, but I’ve been dodging her,” Harry said, coloring slightly.

“And you think she’s been feeding information to Rita Skeeter?” Mrs. Weasley asked, swelling.

Harry shrugged. “I dunno. Perhaps she thought it was a way to get me to want my story out. I sent a message to Percy asking what he knows about her.”

“That’s a very good idea,” Mr. Weasley said, pausing. His ears turned red in much the same way Ron’s did when he was uncomfortable. He cleared his throat before speaking. “I want to reiterate that no one who wasn’t part of the instated Order knows the full details.”

The instated Order. That meant Percy hadn’t been as fully briefed as the other Weasley children. Harry nodded awkwardly.

“Why don’t we have pudding?” Mrs. Weasley said, running her hand in Harry’s hair fondly and breaking the uncomfortable silence.

All in all, Harry was very glad his discomfort over the article had accidentally landed him at the Burrow. It was where he needed to be.

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