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SIYE Time:9:39 on 18th May 2024
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Summer of Recovery
By PotterSloth

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Category: Post-DH/AB
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Teddy Lupin
Genres: General, Romance
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use
Rating: R
Reviews: 74
Summary: What comes after Voldemort’s defeat? A very, very difficult summer. The world moves on, and it’s much different than it was when Harry and Ginny first got together. The summer will be one of grief, but they’re ready to recover together after so long apart. The only question is: will the world finally let them?
Hitcount: Story Total: 6909; Chapter Total: 274
Awards: View Trophy Room






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Harry didn’t even cower as the man stood over him.

/*/*/*/*/*/*/ */*/*/*/*/*

The next morning was a sombre return to reality- silence, no breakfast, and downcast faces as the Weasleys, Harry, and Hermione prepared to attend another funeral. Lavender Brown had died from injuries caused by Fenrir Greyback the evening after the battle, while most of the survivors were either sleeping or celebrating. Yet again, they were all reminded of just how cruel and unfair this war had been to cut so many young lives short.

Ginny was holding Harry’s hand underneath the table. He looked rough- anger and sadness and guilt rolled into one stoic expression. She knew that he’d never really been close to Lavender, but it didn’t matter. He viewed every death at the battle as one that he should’ve been able to prevent, so even though he was sad about the loss of his housemate, he also continued to place the guilt that belonged to her murderer on himself. Ginny pursed her lips, wishing there was something she could say to ease his burden, but all she could do was be there for him.

Looking across the table, she saw that Ron and Hermione bore similar expressions to Harry. This startled Ginny a little- both of them had been incredibly sad during the funerals to this point, but they both looked like they felt guilty, and they seemed to be making it a point to not touch each other. This tipped Ginny off to the reason behind their guilty looks. Lavender had been furious with both of them at the end of last year because of how both Ron and Hermione had acted while she was dating Ron. And now, they were together finally, but Lavender was dead. It was an unfair twist of fate that was clearly weighing on both of them.

When it was time, the family walked, still in silence, outside past the wards. Harry pulled Ginny close to him, and he apparated them to Barnton, a wizarding village in Cheshire, where the Browns were from. As they began walking into the church, Ginny stopped and pulled Hermione to the side, gesturing for Harry to go in with Ron.

“How are you feeling?” Ginny asked her friend.

“I’m sad, Ginny,” Hermione responded obviously.

“You’re more than sad.”

Hermione looked at the ground. “I feel horrible that she died hating me and- and I’m alive, dating her ex-boyfriend.”

Ginny frowned. “She didn’t hate you.”

“After everything that happened last year, I’m quite certain she did.”

Ginny shook her head. “She was jealous of you. Everybody could see that you and Ron fancied each other, even Lavender. And you may have been angry that they were together, but you never really tried to break them up. She was mad at you at the time, but she’d ask me every once in a while last year if I knew anything about what the three of you were doing because she was worried. She may not have been your biggest fan, but she still wanted you to succeed this year.”

“Really?” Hermione looked very surprised at this.

“Really. She didn’t believe that Ron had spattergroit while his two best friends were on the run- none of the students really did. But she never asked about just Ron or Ron and Harry. It was always: ‘Have you heard anything about the trio?’” Seeing Hermione’s confused look, Ginny explained, “Younger kids have called the three of you ‘The Golden Trio’ for the last couple years. We sorta adopted that term this year to talk about you secretly in case the Carrows were listening.”

Hermione nodded, reddening slightly, and Ginny continued, knowing the service would be starting momentarily. “Look, all I’m saying is that she didn’t hate you, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about dating Ron. All of these funerals are really hard on all of us. Don’t make it harder on yourself by taking on guilt you don’t deserve.”

“Like Harry, you mean?”

Ginny sighed, nodding. “I don’t know what to do about him. His guilt isn’t… specific like yours. He feels like everything that happened is his fault.”

Hermione smiled sadly at Ginny. “He’s been that way for years. It used to be that he’d take responsibility any time something bad happened and we got caught. But ever since Cedric… he feels like it was his fault that Riddle came back in the first place. He thinks we should’ve found the Horcruxes faster, and I don’t know that he’ll ever forgive himself for the final battle happening at Hogwarts. Every death Riddle caused since he came back, and especially those at the battle, Harry feels like he could’ve done something to prevent them all, even if it makes no sense.”

Ginny shook her head. “I just wish there was something I could do.”

Hermione put her hand on Ginny’s shoulder comfortingly. “Harry needs you, all the time. He just doesn’t- Harry was raised to believe that everything bad that happened was his fault. That’s… an incredibly dangerous and devastating mindset for someone who’s seen as much death, especially of loved ones, as Harry has. I hope that being around you and all of us, not blaming him for any of this, will eventually help him, but it’ll take time.”

Ginny wanted to ask about what Hermione meant about Harry’s upbringing, but the church bells began ringing, so they quickly entered, sitting next to Harry and Ron at the end of the back row.

Yet again, Professor McGonagall was officiating the service, and yet again, Ginny found it incredibly difficult to focus on what she was saying. Ginny looked around the church, pleased to see a similar attendance to Colin’s funeral, although there were more adult wizards and witches that she didn’t recognize. They looked like they might have been Ministry workers, which struck Ginny as a bit odd.

That thought was quickly pushed out of her mind as Parvati stepped on the stage and began eulogising her best friend, something no teenager should ever have to do. Ginny’s heart broke as she heard snippets of Parvati’s speech- “long talks at night”, “kind-hearted”, “best friend I’ve ever had”. The pain she felt intensified as Lavender’s mother followed Parvati’s eulogy with a brief poem she’d written to her daughter. When she broke down halfway through it, Ginny didn’t think there was a dry eye in the church. It was uncomfortable, but it was more horrifying than anything, seeing the pure anguish on the face of a mother who lost her only child as a teenager. Ginny didn’t want to, but she imagined that this was how Andromeda Tonks felt most of the time.

Somehow the service finally ended, and all the Weasleys left except Ron and Ginny, who stayed behind with Harry and Hermione. Even though it might be awkward, Ron seemed to want to pay his respects to her family. Harry, Hermione, and Ginny followed him because they had all known Lavender fairly well, and it wouldn’t hurt to let her family know they were sorry for their loss and thinking of them.

As the crowd of people around Mr. and Mrs. Brown slowly dispersed, Ron stepped up to them. “I’m Ron Weasley. I don’t know if Lavender ever mentioned me, but we- we dated last year. I- I just wanted to tell you, even though you already know, how great of a person she was, and I’m… so sorry for your loss.”

Ginny was impressed with her big brother. It may not have been eloquent, but it was authentic. She could see that Mrs. Brown knew who Ron was, but she still seemed to appreciate Ron’s sentiment. Mrs. Brown started to say something, but she was cut off by her husband, who shouted, “YOU! How dare you come here today?”

Ginny was stunned at his reaction to Ron, but she was even more surprised when he pushed past Ron and towered over Harry. Everyone left in the church was staring as Harry looked up in shock at the taller man, who continued yelling. “You brought that fight to the school! It wasn’t her fight, but she’s dead because of you!”

Ginny had never seen Harry look like this. He slumped in fear and shame, seemingly barely able to stand. “I know,” he whispered, unable to look the man in the face.

“You know that it’s your fault she’s dead? And yet you parade the fact that you survived here? How dare you?” Mr. Brown’s voice hadn’t softened at all.

Ginny thought she might be sick when Harry whispered, “I’d give anything to take her place.”

“I wish you had,” the man said, shoving Harry, who fell to the ground, unwilling to defend himself. He didn’t even cower as the man stood over him. He just lay there, fully expecting to be given more punishment that he thought he deserved.

Ginny had seen more than enough and leapt in front of the man, enraged by his treatment of Harry. She brandished her wand and stood between Mr. Brown and Harry. Hermione was next to her, obviously feeling a similar anger, and Ron… took the Ron approach to the issue and punched Lavender’s father in the face. Hermione quickly pulled Ron away, and several other people, including Professors McGonagall and Flitwick, stepped in between both parties.

“Honestly, what has gotten into all of you?” McGonagall scolded.

“You heard him,” Ginny growled angrily, not feeling an ounce of sympathy for Mr. Brown at the moment.

McGonagall turned to face Mr. Brown. “Lawrence, why on earth are you blaming Potter for your daughter’s death? She had the opportunity to leave, but she chose to stay behind and fight as a hero. Potter is no more responsible for her death than you are for raising her to be brave and willing to lay down her life for what’s right. You are entitled to your grief, but I will not allow you to blame him after everything he’s been through.”

Ginny felt a surge of pride for her Head of House. Mr. Brown was a big, intimidating man, and even he seemed afraid to cross Professor McGonagall, who was defending Harry fiercely. Mr. Brown still looked furious, but Ginny saw the tears in his eyes. He was a broken man, looking for someone to blame. Harry was just the easiest and most accessible target.

McGonagall turned back to them. “Fistfighting at a funeral is never the way to resolve an issue, Mister Weasley. I think it’s best if you all just take Mister Potter home- where is he?”

Ginny quickly pivoted, looking at the spot on the floor where Harry had been. It was empty. He must’ve slipped out during the fight, and they had no idea where he was. She looked up at Hermione, who had a terrified expression on her face that Ginny suspected mirrored her own.

“Where did he go?” Ginny asked worriedly. Hermione just shook her head, clearly trying to think about it.

“I have no idea,” she finally said. “There’s so many places he could be. Any of the places we camped this year, the Burrow, Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley…”

Ron interjected, “He wouldn’t have gone some place crowded or where he’d be recognized. If he’s in a wizarding area, he’ll be wearing the cloak.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t try looking for him,” Hermione suggested. “We know he’ll come back when he’s ready, and he may just want to be alone.”

Ginny shook her head, fervently disagreeing with that. “No chance. You just told me Harry always needs me around. He’s literally living one of his worst fears right now. I- I can’t let him go through that alone.”

Ginny started pacing, barely noticing that Mrs. Brown was furiously arguing with her husband through tears, shocked and ashamed at his behaviour. Ginny was just focused on finding Harry. She didn’t think he’d want to go somewhere and hide under the cloak. He’d prefer to be somewhere isolated without having to conceal himself. That ruled out pretty much any wizarding area. He could’ve gone to Grimmauld Place, but that was dangerous considering Death Eaters may have put traps there. She also dismissed the idea that Harry would want to go to some place he’d camped at this year, based on how awful his stories about that time sounded. Harry wanted a place where he could be alone, where he could feel his feelings without feeling like he was back on the run.

That all made sense, but there were still hundreds of places he could be. She exhaled, desperately searching her mind for some clue he may have left in their conversations. Where would he have gone?

Ginny hated crying; it felt like she’d done more in the past week than she had in her entire life. But she could feel tears threatening to escape again as she realised there wasn’t anything she could do to help Harry when she didn’t even know where he was.

She turned back to Ron and Hermione. “I don’t know,” she whispered shakily, as though that confession was some sort of hint that she didn’t know Harry as well as she thought. They looked at her sadly, and she could tell that neither of them had any further idea than she did. Wordlessly, Ron put an arm around her shoulders, and Hermione took one of Ginny’s hands. They walked out of the church, not saying another word to the Browns or anyone else they knew. Ginny gritted her teeth, refusing to cry when there was still a chance that she could think of where Harry went. She was pissed off at him for running away like that, but she’d forget about all of that if she could just be with him and make sure he was okay.

Ron was about to apparate her back to the Burrow when they were surprised by a pop behind them. Turning around, Ginny’s eyes widened as she understood immediately where Harry had gone.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG HGHG

Harry landed face first in sand. With incredible effort, he sat up, looking towards the water. In the back of his mind, he heard a man calling him, then yelling instructions to someone else, but all of that quickly faded as his vision clouded.

Face after face swam across his vision. All the people who died because of him. And then they started punishing him.

“YOU!” Lavender shouted.

“How dare you?” Colin demanded.

“You brought that fight to the school!” Fred yelled.

“You parade the fact that you survived?” Tonks scolded.

“She’s dead because of you!” Remus screamed.

He looked up, seeing the anguished face of another parent who lost a child because of him. He didn’t want to defend himself. He deserved to feel the pain he’d caused this man, the pain he’d caused so many families.

The man’s face morphed into a noseless one, with a sadistic sneer and red slits for eyes. He couldn’t run, didn’t want to run. Didn’t want to fight.

“You have permitted your friends to die for you,” the high, cold voice reminded.

“I KNOW!” he screamed. It was his fault. He deserved whatever his enemy would do now. He’d fought long enough. He’d caused so much damage. The world would be better without him.

He didn’t even hear the words. All he saw was a burst of green light. A flash of red erupted across his memory, but he couldn’t focus on that. It was time. The world went dark, and he was falling.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG HGHG

Ginny was looking at Fleur, whose face bore a terrified expression. She stretched her hand out to Ginny. “Eet’s ‘Arry. Come wiz me now!”

Ginny didn’t hesitate, knowing where Harry must have gone. She ran to Fleur, who apparated them to the beach by Shell Cottage the instant Ginny grabbed her hand. She gasped at the sight in front of her. Harry was sitting on the sand, shaking and taking rapid, shallow breaths. Bill was kneeling in front of him, holding his shoulders, trying to calm Harry down. This was the first time she’d witnessed one of Harry’s panic attacks, and it terrified her to see him in this helpless state.

She started to move over to them, but Fleur held her tight. “Wait. Bill knows what eez doing.”

Somehow, Harry stopped shaking so badly, and he actually looked up at Bill, who quickly pulled Harry into a tight hug. “I’ve got you, Harry. It’s all okay,” Bill said comfortingly. Ginny desperately wanted to be the one comforting Harry, but she had to admit that she was very proud of her big brother for being able to calm Harry down like that. She almost jumped when Harry’s shoulders started shaking, and she worried that he was slipping back into his panic attack. She didn’t realise until he pulled away from Bill and started wiping his eyes that Harry was crying. This really surprised Ginny- Harry seemed to make it a point to only cry in front of her, but he was being completely vulnerable with Bill right now.

“What happened?” Bill asked Harry. Harry stared at the ground for a long time before looking back up. Ginny and Fleur were still standing behind Harry, and he clearly had no idea that they were there when he began answering Bill, his voice shaky as he tried to calm himself down.

“It was Lavender’s dad. He- he was so angry at me. He started yelling at me about how her death was my fault.”

“Shit,” Bill groaned, running a hand through his hair, but Harry continued.

“I told him that I knew it was my fault, and he said if I knew that, I shouldn’t be parading around the fact that I survived when I was responsible for the death of his daughter. I- I told him I’d give anything to take her place. He said he wished I had, and then he shoved me to the ground. Gin- Ginny, Ron, and Hermione protected me, but I just couldn’t stay there. I felt it coming and didn’t want it to happen there. I don’t know how I ended up here.”

“That bastard,” Bill spat contemptuously. Then he put his arm back around Harry. “Harry, I know I’ve already told you this, but you have to listen to me. It wasn’t your fault. None of it was. You saved-”

Harry cut him off with a biting tone. “Bill, I- I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but the last thing I need is a lecture about how I did so much and couldn’t have prevented anyone from dying. I knew exactly what I was doing when I went to Hogwarts that night. I knew he’d come, and I didn’t even stop to think about all the kids. You and I both know damn well that I should’ve gone and found him sooner and put an end to it all instead of waiting for everyone to die first!”

Ginny was shocked at how emotional Harry was getting. She’d seen him angry before, but it was usually directed at other people. These were Harry’s innermost thoughts of self-loathing, and it broke Ginny’s heart. She didn’t understand exactly what he meant about finding him- she assumed that meant Riddle- sooner, but she suspected that, like a lot of things, it had to do with what happened in the forest.

Harry turned to look at Bill, starting to breathe quicker as his anger at himself visibly escalated, but he must’ve seen Ginny and Fleur out of the corner of his eye, because he fully turned to look at them both. Ginny knew she wasn’t disguising her horrified reaction in the slightest. Looking at Harry, she saw his anger fade into disappointment, but she immediately knew it wasn’t her he was disappointed in. He was disappointed that he’d let her see him like this. Ginny did the only thing she could think of- she knelt beside him and hugged him fiercely.

She couldn’t pretend that it didn’t bother her that Harry was trying to hide this from her. It ate at her, knowing that there were things he still wasn’t telling her. She wasn’t jealous, really, but there were times when she felt a twist in her gut, wishing he’d just tell her everything without reservation. But she pushed that feeling down, wanting more than anything for him to be okay.

And for now, like Hermione had told her, all Harry needed was for her to be close. Because as angry as he was at himself and the world, when she was around, he was able to calm himself down. He’d promised that he’d tell her everything eventually. She supposed it would happen when it was supposed to. She wasn’t jealous that Harry had told other people what she was still waiting to hear. How could she be when she was the only one Harry hugged like this? How could she be jealous when his breath shuddered and he exhaled deeply, finally calm, and whispered “Ginny” like she was the only thing in the world that mattered?

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG HGHGHGHG

Harry honestly wasn’t sure what brought him to Shell Cottage. He didn’t even know if Bill and Fleur would be here or at the Burrow. It was just the most peaceful place he could think of, and if Bill happened to be there, hopefully he could pull Harry out of the oncoming panic attack. Truthfully, it was lucky Bill had been there. Harry felt himself slipping deeper into that feeling of despair and it scared him, almost as much as he had been scared at the church. He wasn’t scared of Mr. Brown- frankly, Harry was confident that he could take a lot of grown wizards in a duel. But he was scared because he believed every word that Lavender’s father said, despite what Bill or anyone else said.

He really wished Ginny hadn’t seen him like that. He wasn’t sure how long she’d been standing there, but he figured she’d gotten there before he woke up since he didn’t hear any apparition pops after he started talking to Bill. Somehow, despite all that, the fact that Harry was clearly shattered inside- broken wasn’t a strong enough word anymore- Ginny was still there for him. Without hesitation, she saw he needed her, and she was hugging him like he was the only thing she cared about.

Harry was slowly finding that he liked hugging, now that it was becoming more of a common occurrence. Mrs. Weasley’s hugs were so soft and something Harry could only describe as maternal, even though he didn’t have much experience with that. Bill’s hugs were more about mutual respect and an assurance that he was looking out for Harry. Even when Ron and Hermione hugged him, he could tell that they were telling him they were always there for him. But none of those compared to the closeness and safety he felt hugging Ginny. He couldn’t fathom why she’d want to be with him. He was so shattered inside, and she was perfect.

“Ginny,” he whispered reverently, unable to form any more words or thoughts beyond her.

They sat like that for a long time before Harry finally felt strong enough to sit up by himself again. He pulled back slightly, looking into Ginny’s warm eyes that were clouded with sadness. Unable to help himself, he cupped her cheek with his hand and asked, “What’s wrong?”

She sniffled and smiled a little. “Nothing, now that we’re back together. But we’ve gotta stop running away from each other. We’re better together, and you promised you weren’t gonna leave me anymore.”

Harry pressed his forehead against hers. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have run, but I just- I couldn’t take it. I wasn’t running away from you; I’m always gonna wanna be with you.”

“Forever?” Ginny asked, looking up at him and making the cutest expression with her big brown eyes.

Harry had to smile at that. Because despite everything, she didn’t just want him. She wanted him forever.

He kissed the tip of her nose. “Forever,” he promised.

He was reminded of his surroundings when he heard an airy sigh, and both he and Ginny turned to look at Fleur, who was now sitting next to Bill and holding his hand. She smiled warmly at them both.

“You two are just so perfect togezzer!” she exclaimed. Harry looked at Bill, who wasn’t beaming quite like Fleur was, but he did look happy seeing them together like this. Seeing Harry looking at him, Bill nodded, indicating his agreement with Fleur.

Harry knew he was blushing, and when he looked back at Ginny, he saw a tinge of red on her cheeks too- one of his favourite sights. He hugged her tightly again.

“You’re going to need to get back to the Burrow soon,” Bill said. “But stay for tea, and we’ll all go back together. Fleur and I were planning on spending this week there with everyone, considering…”

Harry nodded, and even though he felt another brief pang of guilt, it was somehow lessened being near Ginny. They all stood and walked to the cottage. Passing the garden, Harry felt another softened pang of guilt seeing a large stone over a still-raw patch of earth. Ginny had also noticed it, and she stopped walking to look at the inscription on the stone: Here Lies Dobby, A Free Elf.

Ginny squeezed Harry’s hand, and Harry knew he didn’t need her to say anything. Instead, they all walked into the cottage and enjoyed a nice hour with Bill and Fleur. Harry was a little surprised at how much he and Ginny seemed to have in common with the older couple and that they didn’t really have any shortage of things to talk about that didn’t remind them of sad memories. It was easy, talking to Fleur about Beauxbatons and Bill about Egypt. Before he knew it, it was time for them to return to the Burrow.

He was walking out with Ginny when Bill asked him to stay behind for a moment. Fleur walked out with Ginny, and Harry waited, worried Bill was going to try lecturing him again. Bill seemingly read his mind. “I know you’re still not in the mood for a… lecture, you called it? I don’t want to treat you like a little kid, Harry. I just want you to know that when you’re ready to talk about anything, let me know, and I’ll be there.”

Harry nodded, a little surprised but appreciative at Bill’s offer. “Thanks, Bill. I’ll do that,” he promised, knowing that there were plenty of things he’d like to get Bill’s advice on eventually. Bill smiled, clapped Harry on the shoulder, and they walked out together to meet Ginny and Fleur.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGH GHGHG

Ginny had walked outside with Fleur while Bill held Harry back in the cottage. She found herself wandering to the grave she’d noticed in the garden before. While she was looking at it, Fleur walked up next to her. “You know, ‘e dug zat ‘imself. By ‘and.”

Ginny was startled. “Harry dug the grave by hand?”

Fleur nodded. “‘e ‘ad a leetle ‘elp, but ‘e did most of zee work. ‘e was devastated when zat elf died. Blamed ‘imself.”

“Like always,” Ginny commented sadly, thinking it both sad and predictable that Harry had left out this part of the story that clearly revealed so much about his character. “Thank you, Dobby,” she whispered quietly, remembering the sacrifice the elf had made to save everyone. A moment later, Harry and Bill joined them, and they apparated to the Burrow.

Ron and Hermione were sitting on the porch when they arrived. Immediately, they stood up and hurried over to them as Bill and Fleur slipped past and into the house. Hermione started looking over Harry worriedly but didn’t say anything.

Instead, it was Ron who took the lead. “Sorry about what happened at the church. That wasn’t fair to you.”

Ginny knew Harry didn’t want to talk about it, and she started to deflect the conversation into a different direction when Harry surprised her. “Did you really punch Mister Brown?” It was actually a little impressive that he was able to change the topic without changing the topic.

Ron blushed bright red. “Yeah, I did. It actually hurt like hell to be honest, and McGonagall told me off for it too. He deserved it though.”

Harry looked at all three of them. “Thanks for protecting me,” he said sincerely, and Ginny felt her heart ache as he seemed so genuinely thankful for this instinctive act of theirs.

“Bloody hell mate, we didn’t let Voldemort kill you. We sure as hell weren’t gonna let Lavender’s dad do it,” Ron responded.

Somehow, as irreverent and insane as that joke was, all of them were laughing, even Hermione. When they finally calmed down, Hermione was unsurprisingly the first to return to a more serious demeanour. “Are you okay though, Harry?”

Harry shrugged. “I’ve been better. Had another panic attack, but I’m okay now,” and he squeezed Ginny’s hand. To her, this wordlessly completed the sentence Harry had started to say. He was okay now that she was with him, which made her feel so happy and proud that she was the one who had that effect on him.

Both Hermione and Ron looked worried, but Harry brushed it off. “Really, I’m okay. Come on, let’s go inside,” he suggested, and Ginny walked with him back into the house as Ron and Hermione trailed behind.

That almost felt like a mistake. The second they entered the house, Ginny felt a palpable tension and despair sink in. Of course it felt like this now. They’d been so preoccupied with all the other funerals, but now that Lavender’s was over, Fred’s was next. They had a day off tomorrow, but Ginny suspected that it would be the longest day ever, if today was any indication. Everyone seemed lethargic, unable to do anything. It was contagious, and she and Harry found themselves sitting on the couch for hours as the rest of the family maintained similar vigils around the house. It was as if they all hoped that if they remained still and silent, the pain wouldn’t find them.

How wrong they all were. Throughout the day, Ginny heard various things breaking upstairs. George was likely tearing up Percy’s room, but even Percy, who was always put together and detested chaos, seemed willing to let George handle things however he wanted. In the midst of the silence and stillness, people would randomly walk out of the room, starting to break down in tears. Her mum was the most common offender, but Ron, Hermione, and her dad all did as well.

It wasn’t until that night, when she was lying in bed with Harry after he’d snuck into her room, did she finally allow herself to cry. Or at least, she tried, but no tears came. It wasn’t for lack of sadness and grief- Ginny was sure of that much. It was so confusing, thinking that she should cry and being unable to, even though she absolutely hated crying. For tonight though, she was willing to not question it. She was certain that the inevitable tears would return soon enough, and she was content to be a calm presence for Harry after the difficult day he’d had.

Before Ginny knew it, she was awake again, alone in her bed, and sunlight was streaming into her bedroom. After fighting it for several moments, she finally sat up in bed, whipping her head towards the door as it slowly creaked open and a mop of long, unruly black hair and bright green eyes poked into the room. She sighed; it was just Harry. He smiled at her as he walked in. Ginny patted the bed, and he quickly accepted the invitation, sitting just next to her. She leaned in to him, and he easily wrapped his arm around her, holding her close to him while his hand played with her unbrushed hair.

She didn’t want to leave her room, and Harry clearly sensed that, letting her decide when she was finally ready. Today was going to be a long and awful day between the grief and preparations that had to be made. This time tomorrow, they would be burying Fred by the garden. It didn’t seem real. As difficult as everything had been to this point, with the war and the past ten days, it just seemed to be getting harder and harder. There were bright spots now, something that never happened during the past year, but instead of worrying about what might be happening to Harry, Ron, and Hermione while they were on the run and hoping they’d come back soon, she knew with unerring certainty that Tonks and Fred and so many others were gone, with no hope of returning.

These thoughts were enough to start making Ginny more anxious about leaving her room, but she did her best to let herself be comforted by Harry. The effect they had on each other was mutual. As much as she was clearly helping by being around Harry, he was doing the same to her. She’d been so tense and high-strung throughout the entire past year, and he brought her back to earth, kept her calm when she was at her most stressed out. She didn’t think she could handle all this grief if he wasn’t beside her, and thankfully, that wasn’t something she’d ever have to find out.

Somehow, after Harry brushed his hand through her hair for at least the hundredth time, she finally felt like she was ready. Or at least as ready as she could be. She rubbed Harry’s thigh gently through his jeans, turning to give him a quick kiss before she stood up. She turned back, extended her hand, and helped Harry up, pulling him close so that she could kiss him once more. Letting go of his hand, she walked over to her wardrobe, picking out a blue blouse and a pair of jean shorts. She glanced behind her and saw that, once again, Harry had let himself out of her room. This was probably for the best, she knew. She’d been in a much more flirtatious mood the last time he left while she was undressing. She changed quickly and met him on the landing, taking his hand in hers.

Everyone other than George was sitting around the table when they walked into the kitchen, and even though there was food on the table, it didn’t look like anybody had eaten much. Ginny made herself a light plate with a few sausages and a piece of toast, and she was a little surprised when Harry did the same. He must’ve been awake for a couple hours already, but he’d apparently waited on her to eat.

They ate in silence, and Ginny couldn’t believe that she was full after such a small breakfast. At least she’d eaten something though, considering she suspected that she wouldn’t be hungry again anytime soon. Like she’d been doing every morning they had breakfast, she prepared a plate for George and took it upstairs.

She knocked on the door to Percy’s room, about to call for George when she heard a noise coming from Fred and George’s room. Curious, Ginny set down the plate outside Percy’s door and walked over to the twins’ door, slowly opening it. She was stunned to see George sitting on Fred’s bed, staring at something in his hands. Hearing the door open, George glanced towards her but didn’t say anything, instead turning back to whatever he was holding.

Ginny weighed her options. He hadn’t told her to leave, which was a good sign, and he wasn’t crying or breaking anything. But he also hadn’t asked her to come in. He was clearly upset- he’d been up and down with his grief ever since the battle, like they all had, but for obvious reasons, nobody was dealing with quite as much as George. Nobody could be there for him like Fred always had, but Ginny decided that she had to try. Not to be like Fred, but to really be there for George. She took a deep breath and stepped into her older brothers’ bedroom.

It looked exactly like Ginny remembered from the summer before last. The twins had used the bedroom as a kind of inventory space, but they still kept their old beds here, even though they’d been living above the shop in Diagon Alley for the past two years. Boxes were stacked everywhere, and she could see different coloured stains and burns on the walls and floor- not left by Death Eaters but loads of magical experimentation.

She walked gingerly over to the bed. George hadn’t looked up again, even though he surely knew she was there. Without saying anything, she sat next to him on the bed, finally seeing what he was holding in his hands. It was a piece of parchment, and written across the top in large letters was ‘Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes’. Scanning what she could of the parchment, Ginny saw the names of a dozen or more original Wheezes products. She recognized most of the names, but there were some, like Flavor-Flipping Teacups and Immersive Memory Lockets, that she’d never heard of before.

“This was our first time ever talking about Wheezes,” George said dully, surprising Ginny a little. “We were fourth years, and we’d just been to Zonko’s for the first time in the new term. It was brilliant, but they hadn’t changed anything since our last visit. We thought we could do better, so we came up with all the different things we could make and sell. We’ve had loads of paperwork and notes about ideas, but this one… this was always special.”

Ginny felt her heart breaking for her brother, who was usually so full of life, especially when talking about pranks and the shop. He just seemed so empty. She didn’t know what to do, what to say. How could she possibly tell him that everything would be alright? It wouldn’t ever be alright again- not like it was.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” he whispered, still looking at the paper. “We always swore we’d go out together in some wild experiment gone wrong. Before this week, I’d- I’d never spent a night without him in the same room. Everywhere I went, he was there. And now the only place I see him is in a mirror, and it makes me feel sick every time. I miss him.” His voice cracked and tears started rolling down his face. Ginny did all she could think of. She put her arm around her older brother and cried with him, not having any difficulty shedding tears now.

They stopped crying after a while, but neither of them was ready to leave the room. They sat together for a couple hours, never saying much. Both of them were clearly reliving old memories, but having each other there helped them not get lost. Ginny was remembering the time Fred and George had stolen her stuffed horse when she was five. She’d gotten it back after she accidentally turned their hair pink and they needed Mum to fix it. That was a great memory, and she was so deep inside it that she was surprised when George stood up next to her. She looked up at him, and he shrugged, still wearing that vacant expression on his face.

“I’ve got a couple things to do, and I need to get them done before I go back to not being able to think straight,” he explained monotonously. Ginny nodded, and she followed her big brother down the stairs, hoping he’d feel better for at least an hour or two before hiding himself away again.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGH GHGHG

When Ginny didn’t come back downstairs after a few minutes, Harry realised that she must be with George. As much as he wanted to be with her, he was thankful that George was finally letting someone in. This was hard on all of them, but Harry couldn’t fathom how lost George must be feeling. From experience though, he knew that if anyone could help George at all, it would be Ginny.

The family slowly dispersed from the table, leaving only Harry and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Harry was finding it extremely difficult to look at either of them, but he had no choice when Arthur said, “Ron told us what happened after we left the church yesterday.”

Harry blinked, not expecting that to be what they’d want to talk about at all. He nodded, unsure what to say. “Are you okay, dear?” Mrs. Weasley asked, and Harry felt a surprising, overwhelming rush of emotion that Mrs. Weasley seemed genuinely concerned for him when she was mourning the loss of her son.

“I’m fine, Mum- Mrs. Weasley.” Where did that come from? Harry knew he hadn’t covered that well, considering how she was looking at him now, with wide, shining eyes.

Mercifully, Arthur either didn’t notice or was willing to avoid bringing that up. “It’s okay if you’re not fine, Harry.”

Harry grimaced, worried that they were going to start lecturing him about nothing being his fault. Despite that, he found that he didn’t want to lie to them. Not after everything they’d all been through, how they’d always been there for him and were still there for him now. “Honestly, I don’t know. There have been times when I feel great, but then it passes and I’m left feeling sad, angry, guilty…” Harry trailed off, not wanting to admit that what he really felt guilty for was that the Weasleys had one less hand on their clock, and Harry knew that he was to blame.

“You know, when we say you’re a part of this family, we mean in the bad times too. We’re all struggling. Every minute it feels like I’m going to break down, and I think the only reason I don’t is because this family makes me stronger,” Arthur said.

“We’re here for you, Harry. No matter what, that won’t ever change,” Mrs. Weasley promised. She was still looking at him with those shining eyes, but her expression was soft, caring, and protective. He knew that they meant it when they promised they would be there for him, no matter what. And he was grateful for that because he knew he couldn’t put into words all the feelings he had inside of him at the moment, the good ones and the bad ones. It was too much. Despite all that, and everything he’d done, they promised not to leave him. He felt himself getting choked up, praying that they were right and nothing would ever change their view of him, change their desire to protect him.

“He was also wrong,” Mrs. Weasley added. “And I hope you know that.”

Harry inhaled sharply, suddenly becoming fearful that they would actually want to talk about his guilt and why exactly he felt so responsible for it all. Arthur patted his shoulder. “Even if it was your fault, which it isn’t, we’d still be here. Don’t ever forget that, Harry.”

“Thank you,” Harry managed to say, still overwhelmed with so many different emotions that it made it difficult to think straight. Arthur smiled a little, squeezed Harry’s shoulder, and stood from the table, walking outside towards his garage. Harry looked back across the table at Mrs. Weasley, whose expression was still unchanged.

He wasn’t sure if there was anything else he should say, so he took a safe route: “Is there anything I can do to help today, Mrs. Weasley?”

She shook her head. “Don’t worry about anything, Harry. There’s honestly not much for us to do. Just try and keep your mind off… everything today, as best as you can. I know I’ll be doing the same.”

Her soft smile shifted into a frown as she looked down at the table in front of her. Once again, Harry found himself wondering what he could possibly say in a situation like this. A moment later though, she looked back up at him and hastily tried to reassume her previous expression, even though Harry could still see the sadness on her face.

“Run along dear, I’m sure Ron and Hermione are around here somewhere,” she suggested. Harry nodded and stood up, wishing there was something he could say to make things easier. He turned to walk away when she spoke again. “Oh and Harry… I just wanted you to know, you don’t have to keep calling me Mrs. Weasley, if there’s something else you’d rather call me.” She looked a little hopeful, but Harry wasn’t sure if he should be calling her Mum. That had been an accident, and he didn’t think that was right, especially when she was his girlfriend’s mother. Not to mention he did have a mum, even if he didn’t have any memories of her that weren’t tainted by death and sadness.

Confused and unsure, Harry nodded. “Thanks Mrs- Molly… I’ll be thinking about that.” She smiled a little at him, but he could tell she was surprised that he’d taken to calling her Molly after he’d accidentally called her Mum. He smiled back at her and exited the kitchen, walking outside to the orchard, wondering if it would’ve been more comforting if he had just said that instead.

Lost in his thoughts, he wandered the orchard for an hour or more before returning to the house. Surprisingly, the entire family was crammed into the living room after heading their own ways just a little earlier. It seemed like nobody really wanted to be alone right now. As Harry was looking for a place to sit, George and Ginny came down the stairs and into the room. Ginny looked like she’d been crying; actually, they both did. Harry wanted to comfort her, but the fact that she’d been with George and he was now downstairs was rather encouraging.

Even though nobody had been talking, it still felt as though a hush had fallen over the room. Everyone was obviously looking at George, who surprisingly seeked out Harry with his own eyes, walking towards where he was standing by the door. Harry froze, and for an instant, he was worried that George was finally going to blame him for the loss of his twin.

George stood in front of Harry but looked down, not making eye contact. “We need a sixth,” George said with a gravelly voice.

Harry frowned, trying to understand what that meant. “A sixth?” he asked.

George sighed and Percy spoke up. “He means a sixth pallbearer.” Harry’s eyes widened as he quickly looked back to George, who nodded slightly even though he was still looking down. Harry was shocked. Fred’s five brothers were obviously going to be pallbearers, but why Harry? Surely there was a better choice.

“Me? But shouldn’t Ginny-” Harry was cut off by Ginny shaking her head, looking at him with a strange mixture of sadness and pride.

“I need to be with Mum and Dad. It should be you, Harry.”

“What about Lee? Or-” George finally looked up at Harry, who was still trying to find an alternative because he surely couldn’t help the brothers carry Fred to his grave, not when it was all his fault. George’s eyes were bloodshot, but he looked at Harry with a fiery expression.

“It’s you, you bloody idiot. You’ve been our sixth brother for years- ever since we rescued you in dad’s car.”

Harry squeezed his eyes shut, remembering vividly when he’d seen the twins and Ron floating outside of his window all those years ago. That had been one of the best moments of his life, and George clearly hadn’t forgotten about it either. He opened his eyes and saw a softer look on George’s face. This was the grieving George, wordlessly begging Harry to accept without any further protest. Harry exhaled and nodded. “Okay, I- I’ll do it. Thanks, George.”

George nodded and walked outside without any warning, disapparating as soon as he left the wards. Harry turned back to the living room after watching George disappear, and he was surprised that the family was looking at him and not where George had been. Feeling uncomfortable, he moved to sit in front of the fireplace, and Ginny quickly sat next to him, taking his hand in hers.

Still nobody was saying anything, so Harry looked down at Ginny, who met his gaze with her own immediately. “Are you sure you don’t want to?” he asked softly.

Ginny shook her head again. “I’m going to need my parents tomorrow. If he didn’t have another brother, I’d do it in a heartbeat, but he has you. Thank you for asking me though,” Ginny squeezed his hand and smiled at him as she said this.

Harry nodded and looked back to everyone else. Of all people, it was Ron who said, “After everything… you’re just as much a brother as the rest of us, mate.” Surprisingly, every other brother, even Percy, nodded in agreement. He raised an eyebrow at Charlie, unable to believe that Charlie could sincerely mean that.

Charlie just shrugged. “I’ll take the piss out of you most days, but not today, Harry. We’re still getting to know each other, but… I know how important you are to this family and how important you were to Fred. You’re one of us.”

Mrs. Weas- Molly was crying again, and Arthur was looking at all of them with pride. Harry looked back down to Ginny. “I told you. Sorry though, I don’t see you like a brother,” she said loudly, and that broke the tension that was still lingering in the room, as everyone started laughing at that.

Chuckling, Harry kissed the top of her head. “I’m glad,” he whispered, and she grinned at him.

The rest of the day passed quietly, as the previous day had. Harry and Ginny spent the day with their family, aside from a moonlit stroll through the orchard. They never talked much, but they were both exhausted by the end of the day, falling asleep surprisingly quickly considering what lay before them tomorrow.

/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*

A/N: Yeah, a little bit of a different tone than Chapter 11, I know. The impetus for this chapter, as you might’ve guessed, was that I didn’t think it was entirely realistic for literally everyone to treat Harry like a saint without putting any blame on him. And out of everyone whose funerals I knew we’d be going to, Lavender’s family was the only one I felt comfortable giving that role to. The sad reality, to me at least, is that Mr. Brown is just trying to process his grief and looking for someone to blame, and Harry happens to be a very convenient target. Ron’s reaction felt very in character to me, and I kind of think Mr. Brown needed a solid hit to the head to snap him out of it.

As an aside, the Browns are a pureblood family, so I thought it reasonable for them to live in a wizarding village. HP Wiki has a list of wizarding villages, and Barnton was the only one in Cheshire, a rural county in northwest England. One of the only facts we know about Lavender’s childhood and history was that she had a pet rabbit that died. I kind of like to imagine that there were a lot of rabbits around where she grew up and she was always taking them in, and for whatever reason, Cheshire seemed like the most appropriate county to me for that. I don’t claim to always have sound logic for decisions like this!

I should mention that canon doesn’t explicitly say that Lavender died. The movie shows her as being dead, but the last the book says about Lavender is that she was ‘feebly struggling’ against Fenrir Greyback when Hermione throws him off of her, which leaves it up to interpretation. I decided that, as much as I feel terrible for everyone with all the funerals, Colin being the only student we know who died isn’t enough. Emily was a possible candidate to fill that role, but there were two key differences between her and Lavender. First, Emily’s death honestly would’ve been tragic without much growth for anyone other than Ginny potentially, but it would’ve been absolutely brutal to write. On the other hand, Lavender’s death presented an opportunity for all of our characters to grow, with Ron and Hermione wrestling with guilt, Harry dealing with someone other than himself blaming him, and Ginny learning how to support him through a panic attack and being a good friend to Hermione. I also didn’t have any sort of vision for what I would do with Lavender’s character if I did choose for her to make a miraculous recovery, and I did have a vision for Emily’s character that you’ll see play out throughout this book and future works. I hope it doesn’t come across as cold or anything for me to logic out why Lavender is dead; I don’t view the characters as little chess pieces to move in order to make the story work. After so long writing them, they do feel real to me, and I just didn’t ever develop that same attachment to Lavender.

I gave maybe a surprising amount of consideration to how Ginny would get to Shell Cottage to see Harry coming out of his attack. The easy solution would be that she just knew immediately that Harry would go there, but I didn’t think that made much sense, and maybe more importantly, her not knowing shows that they’re learning things about each other and that they can and will surprise each other, sometimes in good ways, sometimes in not so good ways.

As everyone’s attention turned towards Fred’s funeral, it was extremely difficult to figure out how to articulate those feelings. I think I’ve said before that I think I’m much better at writing happy and romantic scenes, but I don’t consider that an excuse to not convey the emotions of grief that everyone is feeling well. I’d gladly take any feedback about how you all feel about how I’ve done with that. I definitely get sad, reading these chapters, so at least it’s having the intended effect on me!

And one last note… I imagine things like wizarding funerals and weddings to be very unique depending on the person or family in question. The Weasleys, being a very down to earth and humble family, strike me as a family that would use pallbearers rather than magic to move Fred. Harry being chosen as the sixth pallbearer is another signal of his growing closeness with all of the Weasleys, and I really do think Fred viewed Harry as a brother, if not in Harry’s first year then definitely by the time he, George, and Ron rescued Harry the following summer.

And that wraps up Assigning Blame! Next chapter will be another very emotional one, at least in my opinion, so buckle up!
Coming Tuesday: Heroes- Walking towards the garden were her five brothers and Harry, carrying a large box between them.
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