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SIYE Time:9:34 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: 6907; Chapter Total: 744
Awards: View Trophy Room






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It all felt unreal, like at any moment, Fred would walk in and make fun of them for being so sad.

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


Ginny felt like she couldn’t breathe, like an invisible hand had gripped her throat so tightly that she saw spots. Harry wrapped his arms around her, obviously knowing that the horrors of the battle were hitting her, but that did nothing to wipe the image of Fred’s lifeless body from her mind. The tears were falling before she knew it, and she leaned weakly into Harry’s warm embrace because there was nothing else she could do. There was no bringing him back.

Harry held her while she cried for Merlin knew how long. Finally, she felt the tears start to slow and she let out a shaky breath.

“I miss him,” Ginny whispered.

Harry’s head was in her hair again, and he responded, “I know. I miss him too. I miss all of them.”

Ginny grimaced against his chest as more images flashed through her mind. Colin. Lupin. Tonks. Friends she wouldn’t ever get to laugh with again. Ginny’s heart ached as she realised she had lost two siblings that night. For the past couple years, Tonks had been the sister she’d always wanted. Nobody made it easier to talk about boys than Tonks. Nobody made her laugh more than Tonks and the twins.

George. Ginny let out another sob, unable to imagine the pain George must be in. Her whole life, it had always been FredandGeorge, not Fred and George. It was like they were two halves of the same person. He must be so lost without his other half. She breathed shakily again as the tears faded once more. She was hurting deeply. But her family needed her. They needed to be together.

Harry hadn’t let her go even though they’d surely been standing like that for twenty minutes. Slowly, she stepped back from him, and he tenderly let her go. She turned to look for Ron, but not finding him, she looked back at Harry.

He looked at her with as much pain in his eyes as she felt in her heart, and she saw the lines made by tears running down his cheeks. Ginny hadn’t even realised he’d been crying, he’d been so quiet. “Ron wanted to give us some privacy,” he offered.

Ginny nodded before going to wash her face in the sink. Her eyes were red and puffy, she saw in the mirror, but she supposed everyone’s would be today. Harry washed his face after her, and they met at the door to the dormitory.

She reached her hand out to him, and he took it, lacing their fingers together again while leaning over to press another kiss to her forehead. They walked down the stairs together, and Ginny was surprised to find that there wasn’t anyone in the common room.

She looked at Harry, who shrugged. “I suppose everyone’s eating lunch.”

Ginny nodded, agreeing that that made sense. She doubted many people would want to be alone or away from a group today anyways. They stepped out of the common room and turned, expecting to see the Fat Lady, but she must have been visiting another portrait in the castle because hers was empty.

She felt Harry breathe a small sigh of relief, knowing there was one less person that he’d have to talk to today. Sometimes her boyfriend- it felt so good thinking of him like that again- confused her. He had just defeated the darkest wizard ever, and he seemed terrified at the prospect of being thanked for it by people who loved him. Ginny couldn’t deny it- she’d always loved being the centre of attention. She didn’t think of herself as being prideful, but growing up with six older brothers meant that a lot of attention wasn’t on her when she was younger. Not that she was ever deprived of love or anything; on the contrary, she’d had the happiest childhood imaginable. But at Hogwarts, particularly after her first year, she was able to flourish into her own unique person, and people had been drawn to her for it. Ginny enjoyed that feeling, but she liked the way that Harry seemed drawn to her for more than just her popularity or her Quidditch skills. Nobody had ever looked at her the way he did, and she never wanted anybody else to look at her like that. So even though she didn’t always understand why he was afraid of attention, she wasn’t going to think for a moment that he was wrong. He’d gone through enough to be treated the way he wanted.

Ginny and Harry reached the corridor outside the Great Hall without seeing anybody. Once they came near the doors though, Harry stiffened and his feet stopped moving. Ginny turned to face him. He was staring at the doors like he was petrified. Hearing the din of a large crowd of people, she honestly couldn’t blame him, especially given his predisposed tendency to avoid attention. People had piled onto him immediately after the battle, but he’d broken away rather quickly, and she guessed that a lot of people would want to speak with him today.

Ginny stood on her toes to kiss his cheek. Some colour returned to his face, and he looked at her. “Stay with me,” he whispered.

“Always,” she responded, brushing her lips over his before turning to walk with him. They reached the doors, and Harry took a deep breath. Ginny squeezed his hand tightly, and he pushed open the door to the Great Hall.

Ginny nearly gasped seeing how many people were there. There must have been a couple hundred students, teachers, members of the Order, Hogsmeade villagers, and other wizards and witches she didn’t recognize. There wasn’t any order to where people were sitting. The four house tables were packed, and Hogwarts banners decorated the room rather than the usual house banners. The din she’d heard in the corridor quieted rapidly. It became so quiet in the hall that one could have heard a quill scratch.

Suddenly, the room erupted in raucous applause. Harry flinched violently, and she squeezed his hand, trying to reassure him. He blinked and took a deep breath before trying his best to smile at the crowd, but it looked more like a grimace to her.

Ginny stood on her toes and whispered in his ear, “What you wouldn’t give for another duel in here instead, huh?”

Pleased with herself, she saw Harry smile for real as a chuckle escaped his lips. She squeezed his hand again and started pulling him to the end of the Gryffindor table, where she could see her family had gathered.

Along the way, a few people stood up to thank Harry with a handshake or brief hug, but Ginny was thankful that for some reason, most everyone had decided to respect him and not bother him right now. As they neared her family and saw the sorrow etched on their faces, she felt another wave of despair as she realised that although people were happy to see Harry today, everyone was mourning somebody they had lost too. Her emotions seemed to be oscillating uncontrollably between joy at being with him and crippling despair at the loss of loved ones, and she had no idea how to respond to it.

Her mum stood up and pulled both Ginny and Harry into a bone-crushing hug. Ginny felt herself begin to cry again as she leaned into her mother’s embrace, and when she finally let go, Ginny could see that she was crying as well.

Ginny and Harry sat down next to Ron and Hermione, and Ginny saw that Harry’s eyes were shining with unshed tears. Keeping his hand locked in hers, she hooked her foot around his and rubbed his thigh with her free hand. Harry glanced at her gratefully out of the corner of his eye but didn’t say anything.

Turning from Harry, Ginny surveyed the rest of her family. Bill and Fleur sat across from her and Harry, and they were holding each other much like Ginny and Harry had been upstairs in the dormitory. Next to them were Charlie and Percy, both of whom looked like they’d been crying for hours. Hermione was next to Ginny, and Ginny could see the puffiness of her eyes clearly. Ron looked much sadder than he had when he was upstairs. Next to him was George, and her parents sat across from him. All three of them had blank looks on their faces, although her mum’s eyes clearly bore signs of weeping. The expressions on their faces broke Ginny’s heart once again. They looked lost, like they had no clue how to even begin to process the tragedy they were living in. It all felt unreal, like at any moment, Fred would walk in and make fun of them for being so sad.

Everyone had a plate of food in front of them, but it didn’t look like anybody had eaten much. If Ginny needed any more confirmation that everyone was hurting deeply, this was it. Weasleys never failed to empty their plates. Ginny wanted to say something that would make things go back to normal, but she couldn’t think of anything that would get her family talking. Luckily, she didn’t have to.

Charlie, who spent more time with dragons than people and probably wasn’t as used to having to be sensitive to people’s emotions, looked at the four people sitting across from him, and he surprised Ginny when he cleared his throat and asked gruffly, “Did you three really ride a dragon out of Gringotts?”

The entire Weasley clan looked surprised for a moment that anyone had spoken at all. Ginny looked at Harry, who nodded while still looking at a spot on the table that he hadn’t yet taken his eyes off of. Ginny had heard the story just two days ago, before the battle, but she figured it was an exaggeration if not an outright fairy tale. Her eyes widened at Harry’s affirmation, and she turned to look at Hermione and Ron. Hermione nodded as well.

Ron snorted. “Yeah, we were on it for most of the day before we could finally jump off into a lake and apparate to Hogsmeade.”

It was like the family needed something to focus on instead of their grief. Bill and Fleur grinned proudly at the admission. Percy looked appalled, Arthur smiled slightly, and Molly covered her mouth with her hands. Ginny could tell she was trying to not say anything about how dangerous that was. More concerning though was that George didn’t react at all.

Charlie shook his head and whistled softly, “Merlin, I used to think the stories you’d tell me in those letters were exaggerations, Ron.”

“I wish,” Ron shot back. “I would’ve loved to have been a normal student hearing the rumours and thinking they were all made up rather than living through all the problems that come with being a hero.”

Bill, Charlie, and surprisingly, her dad, laughed a little as Ginny rolled her eyes. Leave it to her brother to say something barmy like that. Hermione gasped and pushed him, but he laughed and wrapped an arm around her, leaning down to whisper into her ear. After a moment, she looked satisfied and leaned into Ron, smiling softly.

For some reason, that seemed to loosen up most of the family, and all the Weasley kids but George started talking about different things, about nothing really, just trying to act like everything was normal. Her parents didn’t say anything, but they did look relieved that their family was talking again. Or most of it anyways.

Ginny had noticed that Harry hadn’t said anything since they sat down, and she turned to try and bring him into the conversation again, but he was still looking at that same knot of wood on the table.

Ginny squeezed his hand, and he squeezed it back, but he still didn’t look up. Frowning and confused, Ginny turned back to the conversation and saw Bill looking intently at Harry.

After a minute, Bill said, “Harry? Can I talk to you outside for a minute?”

The conversation at the table quieted, and Harry jerked his head up for the first time, looking surprised. He looked at Bill for a moment, then turned to look at Ginny. She nodded, saying, “Go ahead. I can let you out of my sight for a few minutes.”

Ginny was pleased to see that, once again, she was the person who could get Harry to smile, even if it was only for a second. Harry nodded at her, kissed her cheek, and stood up, following Bill out of the Great Hall.

Everyone on the other side of the table stared at her before Charlie, who seemed to be racing Ron for the title of bluntest Weasley, blurted, “Merlin sis, you couldn’t settle for anyone less than The Chosen One?”

Ginny laughed at him before Percy said, “You’ve had a crush on him your whole life. That’s- you didn’t use a love potion, did you?”

Ginny blinked, surprised at Percy. “Did you just make a joke?”

Percy grimaced slightly before nodding. “I thought it was a new thing I’d try.”

Ginny smiled. “I’m glad. But you need some practice. If anybody would’ve needed to use a love potion, it’s him. Have you seen me?” Ginny joked back.

Everyone actually laughed at that, and Ginny thought she saw the shadow of a smile on George’s face for a moment.

“We always did say she deserved the best,” her dad said, smiling at Ginny as she felt herself blushing at his approval.

“Maybe he’ll finally accept that he’s part of the family now,” her mother added, looking extremely happy for her daughter. “Although we do need to have a conversation about sleeping arrangements at some point.”

Ron snorted, and Ginny glared daggers at him before looking at Hermione, who was a bright shade of pink and steadfastly avoiding eye contact with Ginny.

“I am so 'appy for zem both. When I look at zem, I see a reflection of myself and Bill. Ze young love, eet eez just so beautiful, no?” Fleur interjected, looking kindly at Ginny, who barely stopped herself from gaping at the woman who usually annoyed her so much. Maybe there was more there that Ginny should investigate. Instead of looking shocked, she smiled at Fleur, nodded her head in thanks, and turned to her mother, ignoring Charlie and Percy, who were both looking a little red and protective at the mention of young love and sleeping arrangements.

“Thank you, Fleur. I’m happy with the sleeping arrangements though, Mum, so you don’t have to worry about it,” Ginny said sweetly.

Molly started to open her mouth, but Arthur leaned over to whisper in her ear and after a moment, she just nodded at Ginny and started looking at George in a concerned manner.

Ginny turned to smirk at her brothers. Charlie shook his head yet again. “Never let it be said that Ginny Weasley doesn’t always get what she wants.”

Ginny smiled as sweetly and innocently as she could, and Charlie rolled his eyes, chuckling. The family slowly resumed separate conversations, and Ginny’s mind went to Harry, wondering what Bill was talking to him about.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG< /i>

Harry was so grateful that he’d been finding it so easy to tell Ginny about all the difficulties of the last year. He couldn’t have dreamed of talking this openly about how much he’d struggled, how lost and hopeless he’d felt. This had been the best morning of his life, waking up with her and finally getting to tell her secrets he’d hated having to keep for the past year.

He’d been so happy that he’d almost forgotten that they’d cocooned themselves in from the outside world, but when Ron had come in and told them that the Weasleys wanted to see them, it all came rushing back to him. All the bodies in the Great Hall- Colin, Tonks, Lupin, Fred. He did his best to be strong for Ginny, but he couldn’t keep the tears from falling as he remembered.

When they finally made it to the Great Hall, he’d been hit with two jolts of fear. The first, one he was used to after many years, was that everyone in there would probably want to talk to him. The second, a fear he’d have to talk to Ginny about eventually, was that both of them had nearly died in this room just a day earlier. Harry, who had spent a year singularly focused on defeating Riddle, had allowed himself to be diverted for the first time when he saw a green jet of light miss Ginny’s head by centimetres. Thankfully, Mrs. Weasley had been there to protect her, but nothing, not even facing Riddle in the forest, had scared Harry as much as that moment. But when Ginny kissed him, he was brought back to the present, and he was just so happy to be with her that he pushed those fears aside and stepped into the Great Hall, where they were greeted with applause so loud it sounded like a herd of centaurs was galloping around the room.

Harry flinched, brought back to the sounds of the battle, but as always, it was Ginny who knew the right thing to say to make him happy and give him the strength to face the crowd. Mercifully, not many people stopped him on the way to the Weasleys, and Ginny never let go of his hand. As they reached the Weasleys though, Harry felt sick to his stomach as he saw how grief-stricken they all were. He didn’t even realise until he felt it that Mrs. Weasley was pulling them into a tight hug. He felt a little uncomfortable admitting it, but he loved her hugs, even if he couldn’t understand why she’d be hugging him like her own son when he was the reason she had one less.

As that thought sunk in to Harry, he sat down with Ginny, staring at the table in front of him, trying to push the thoughts of all the bodies out of his head. He held onto Ginny’s hand desperately, feeling like at any moment, the family would remember that this was all his fault and not want anything to do with him. He didn’t know how long he’d been sitting like that when he heard a voice saying his name, pulling him out of his thoughts.

He looked up and saw Bill looking at him expectantly. “Can I talk to you outside for a minute?”

Surprised, Harry looked down at Ginny, who nodded at him with a small smile, even though he could see sadness and confusion in her big brown eyes. “Go ahead,” she said, “I can let you out of my sight for a few minutes.”

Harry smiled briefly at that, bending down to kiss her cheek and giving her hand one last squeeze before standing up. Harry looked over at Bill, who was now also standing, and followed him when he nodded his head toward the door.

Bill led Harry through the corridor outside the Great Hall and into an empty classroom off of the next corridor. He closed the door behind them, locking and placing a silencing charm on it.

Harry began to feel a little uneasy as Bill turned to look at him with a hard-to-read expression on his face. Bill sat down at one of the chairs in the classroom, and Harry followed his lead, sitting across from him.

After a few moments of silence, Bill spoke. “Harry, how are you feeling?”

Harry was a little surprised, but he tried to form a coherent answer to that difficult question. “What do you mean how am I feeling? I don’t even know how to answer that. I’m thankful that it’s over. I’m so happy that I’m with Ginny again. I feel like I can’t breathe thinking about everyone who died,” he finished exasperatedly.

Bill nodded. “You didn’t say a word in there, and you were just staring at the table. You can hardly look at me or anyone but Ginny, and you weren’t even looking at her for a while in there. I know we’re still getting to know each other better, Harry, but if I know one thing about you based on how I saw you acting last summer, you cannot keep your eyes off my sister.” Harry blushed slightly at that but unconsciously couldn’t make eye contact with Bill.

Bill continued, “See, you’re still not looking at me and I just basically accused you of ogling my little sister in front of me.” Harry blushed further, and finally he made eye contact with Bill, doing his best to hide the grimace he felt creeping onto his face.

“Harry,” Bill said, “We’re all grieving. We lost Fred, Remus, Tonks, and… a lot more. But… I think something else is bothering you.”

Harry had looked away again as Bill listed people who had died. Did he think Harry didn’t know who was dead? That he hadn’t seen their bodies in the Great Hall? Harry remembered the words Riddle had said, and without thinking, he murmured what had haunted him the night of the battle and what had been haunting him since he saw the Weasleys again.

“You have permitted your friends to die for you.”

Bill looked sharply at Harry. “Did you just say-”

Harry nodded. “I know you heard him say it too. I never wanted anybody to sacrifice anything for me. But so many people are dead, so many people have lost family, and it’s because of me. When I saw all of you and thought of Fred, I remembered what he said. By the time I gave myself up to him, I’d already let so many people die, so many people I cared about. I figured it was only a matter of time before you all realised that it was my fault that you had one less brother.”

He was so caught up in his downward-spiralling train of thought that he didn’t notice Bill standing up, until he felt Bill pulling him up and wrapping him in a tight hug. This wasn’t anything like his hugs from Ginny or from Mrs. Weasley. The only thing Harry could think to compare it to was Sirius’ hugs. It felt protective and brotherly at the same time.

A moment passed, and Bill let Harry go, sitting down closer to him this time. “Harry, you’re our brother too. You’ve been a part of this family pretty much since the day you met my brother. Our family would be much smaller if it wasn’t for you with how many of our lives you’ve saved. But that’s not why you’re part of our family. You’re part of our family because of how much we care about you and how much you obviously care about us, even though you don’t like to talk about feelings. You fit perfectly into our family, and it wouldn’t be the same without you.”

Harry warmed inside. He started to thank Bill, but Bill continued speaking, “Nothing that happened yesterday was your fault.”

Harry opened his mouth to protest, but Bill held up his hand. “Harry, do you think it was Ginny’s fault that the Chamber was opened and people almost died?”

Harry shook his head profusely. “Of course not, she was possessed by him. She did everything she could to fight it, and nobody died. If I’d just given myself up sooner, maybe less people-”

“Stop, Harry. Look- I’m going to tell you something that I’ve only talked to Fleur about because I think it may help. Just- just listen until I’m done talking.”

Harry nodded, slightly perplexed at the direction the conversation was going in.

Bill took a deep breath and began, “A few years ago, when I was working in Egypt, my team was in a wizard tomb we’d just discovered. We were responsible for breaking the curses and taking down the wards that were protecting the goblin treasures inside. Things started out smoothly, like any routine job. I thought I’d taken care of all the curses on the interior of the tomb, so I said it was all clear, and my team was ready to check it out. I was at the back of the group going in. After the first few people made it inside… there was a bright purple flash and the tomb started collapsing around us. I barely made it out. When I turned around… the entire structure had caved in, and I was the only one standing outside of it. I called for help and started removing as much debris as I could. We finally cleared all the rubble, and I saw three of my colleagues, my friends, dead. Two more had been hurt so badly that they could no longer walk. I was the only person who survived unscathed.

“My boss told me later that they’d had a more senior team investigate the incident, and there wasn’t anything I could’ve done. It was a curse we’d never seen before, so well-hidden that he didn’t think even he would have found it if he’d been in my position. It didn’t matter. I was the one who was responsible for clearing the area, and it was my fault that they all got hurt and killed.”

Harry watched as a tear slid down Bill’s scarred cheek and was surprised to find himself tearing up as well, empathising deeply with Bill’s story.

Bill continued, “I still have nightmares sometimes. Or I find myself in a daydream where I feel like I missed something that day. That there was more I could’ve done. I don’t expect that guilt will ever go away. Every single one of their families thanked me for being there for their loved ones and told me not to blame myself. I wish that made me feel better, but it made me feel worse knowing that these wonderful people had lost someone they loved. Logically, when I think about everything I did, I know there wasn’t anything I could’ve done differently. It wasn’t actually my fault, but I still carry some of that guilt.

“I know it’s not exactly the same, but I do know a little bit of what you’re going through. It wasn’t your fault that evil people decided to kill a lot of our friends last night. His followers have been killing for fun since before either of us were born. A lot of people love you, but you weren’t the reason people were here yesterday. Every person who fought here wasn’t fighting just to protect you. They were fighting to protect themselves, to protect their families and their friends from what Voldemort was threatening to do. We were fighting for our way of life, for our freedom and ability to do what we want with our lives without having to worry about what some psychopathic, murderous dictator thinks of it. Fred died last night, but he didn’t die just for you. He died for all of his family, for all his friends. You know Fred. He died laughing, fighting for the ability to make jokes that would spread happiness. And he won. Because we get to carry on his legacy and continue spreading happiness and love without fearing a dark overlord.

“I know that doesn’t help much. Believe me, I know it doesn’t. But none of the people who died yesterday would blame you at all. And even though it’s hard to wrap your head around, don’t forget that you saved hundreds, maybe thousands of lives, or more yesterday.”

Harry didn’t know when he’d started, but tears were flowing down his cheeks for the second time today, and he saw that Bill was also crying openly. They sat like that for a while, silently keeping each other company while Harry tried to process what Bill said. Bill was right- it didn’t take away the guilt Harry felt. But it did make him feel slightly less tense and worried about what the Weasleys thought of him now. He supposed this was what it was like getting used to being part of a family. He liked the feeling that they were there for him, that they wanted him, and that they didn’t blame him, even if he blamed himself. It still hurt, but feeling just a little better was enough for today. A little more comforted, Harry nodded slowly, indicating to himself that he was accepting what Bill had said and the love the Weasleys wanted to give him.

Finally, Bill spoke again. “You said you gave yourself up. I have to ask because it’s the only thing I can think of related to that… what happened in the forest yesterday?”

Harry stiffened, and Bill started to apologise for asking, but Harry shook his head. He could trust Bill. He needed somebody other than Ginny, Ron, and Hermione that he could confide in. And after what Bill had just told him, he knew that Bill wouldn’t have a problem being there as a confidant and friend.

“Erm… well, I…” Harry began tentatively. “You can’t tell anyone this, especially Ginny.” Seeing Bill look at him questioningly and realising what it sounded like, Harry quickly added, “I’m not hiding anything from her. I’m telling her everything, don’t worry. It’s just that I started from the beginning, and there’s a lot to tell, so I haven’t gotten the chance to tell her about this yet. But I have to be the one to tell her.”

Bill nodded, looking grateful that Harry was confiding in him, and Harry grabbed the bottom of his shirt. He looked at Bill, who appeared very confused and maybe slightly alarmed now.

“Trust me, this is probably the easiest way to explain it,” Harry said.

He removed his shirt, and Bill’s eyes widened like saucers when he saw the newly formed lightning bolt scar on Harry’s chest. Satisfied, Harry quickly put his shirt back on.

Bill’s eyes darted from where Harry’s scar was under his shirt to his forehead. Eventually, he managed to say, “You- you survived the Killing Curse… again?”

Harry nodded grimly.

“So you were knocked unconscious, and he thought you died, so when you woke up, he had no idea,” Bill assumed.

“Erm… kind of,” Harry responded, wondering if this was the best idea now.

“Kind of?”

Harry hesitated, finally deciding that Bill could handle it. “You’re a curse breaker, so I’m guessing you have a lot of experience with the Dark Arts. Do you know what a Horcrux is?”

Bill nodded, looking a little lost before his eyes widened again. “Are you saying he made a Horcrux?”

“He made seven. And… I was the one he never meant to create.” Harry let the confession hang in the air. He hadn’t even told Ron and Hermione this yet, he realised.

Bill closed his eyes, rubbing them and shaking his head. After a moment, he looked back at Harry.

“So that’s where you all were this past year. You were looking for his Horcruxes.”

“Yeah. Two of them had already been destroyed before we left your wedding. We found one in the Ministry last September, and we found the fourth in Gringotts a couple days ago. The fifth was here, in Hogwarts, his snake was the sixth, and I was the seventh.”

“Bloody hell, Harry,” Bill swore. “So that’s how you survived then? He killed the part of his soul inside of you instead of you?”

Steeling himself for what was probably the biggest confession he’d have to make, Harry answered, “Yeah, he killed that part of himself. But, he killed me too, at least for a couple minutes, I think.”

Bill looked shocked and confused. Harry tried to figure out how to explain it.

“The only reason I had the possibility of surviving was because he used my blood to bring himself back to life. That transferred my mother’s protection to him, so even though he took my blood when he came back to try and get around it, her protection over me stayed alive in him. He couldn’t kill me as long as he was alive because I’d still have that protection. When he hit me with the curse, he killed that part of his soul, and I died briefly. I was… given the option of coming back or moving on.”

Harry could tell Bill’s mind was still reeling, but he nodded, rubbing his chin with his hand. After some contemplation, Bill spoke, “So then you knew, when you were going to the forest, that he couldn’t kill you?”

Harry shook his head, confessing, “I had no idea. I knew I was a Horcrux, and that I’d have to die for it to be possible to kill him. I figured it all out while I was in that limbo trying to decide whether to move on or stay. I realised that I could come back and end it all. And if I had a chance, I wasn’t going to leave Ginny.”

“Bloody hell,” Bill swore again, but then he grinned. “Make sure to mention that when you tell her about this.” Harry smiled a little, glad that he’d at least kept the last thing he saw before he died a secret for now.

“Harry,” Bill continued, looking a little more serious now, “I’m not going to be the last person to tell you this, especially when you do finally tell people about it all. You’re the bravest person I’ve ever met. I- I can’t imagine the strength it took to willingly walk to your death. I’m sure this will make you uncomfortable, so I’ll only say it once. Thank you for what you did, and… thanks for coming back for Ginny.”

Harry flushed, a little embarrassed at the praise Bill had given him. Harry stood when he heard Bill stand, and he was surprised yet again to be pulled into another protective hug.

Bill must have felt Harry stiffen a little because he said, without letting go, “Weasleys hug, Harry. You’re gonna have to get used to it sooner or later.”

Harry laughed and relaxed a bit before pulling back, looking at Bill gratefully. Bill grinned at Harry before turning to open the door, but he stopped and faced Harry again.

Harry raised his eyebrows, but Bill put his hand up. “Last thing, I promise. Then I’ll get you back to your girlfriend,” he said with a suggestively raised eyebrow. “I’m sure one or more of my brothers will give you hell for it, but I feel like it’s my responsibility to say what we all really think since you probably won’t hear it from any of them. We couldn’t be happier that you and Ginny are together, even though it seems like you two have been together for some time now. We’ve always said that Ginny deserves the very best. Frankly, based on what we’ve just talked about and how I’ve seen you act when she’s around, I know there isn’t a better person for her to be with.”

As usual, Harry felt himself blushing, but he also smiled proudly at Bill, grateful that he had the approval of Ginny’s oldest brother, a man who was also becoming increasingly important in his own life.

Bill clapped him on the shoulder before opening the door and casually said, “Don’t let it go to your head. We all think that, but if you ever hurt Ginny like she was hurt this past year, we will find a way to kill you even though Voldemort couldn’t figure it out.”

Harry gulped and must have looked terrified, wondering what he’d been thinking, dating a girl with so many older brothers. Bill chuckled and stepped out of the room, waiting for Harry to join him.

He slung a brotherly arm over Harry’s shoulders, and as he guided him back to the Great Hall where the Weasleys were waiting, he remarked, “I don’t think you have anything to worry about from us honestly. You’re clearly head over heels for her. And besides, I’m pretty sure if you did hurt her, you’d have to deal with her first.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right about that,” Harry said absently, imagining the blazing look on Ginny’s face when she’s angry and wondering how quickly he could get her back up to the dormitory.

/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*/*
A/N: And now we get into the sad realities of the aftermath of the war. I’ll be honest, I think I’m much better at writing happy, fun stuff than the more melancholy and sad stuff that’s necessary for this part of the book, so I hope I did a good job with it. I want to be clear that everyone’s still in a lot of shock at this point, searching for something to make everything feel more normal after the death of Fred, but there’s definitely more hard times ahead for everyone dealing with it.

Bill is going to be a really important character in this story, starting with this first interaction with Harry. I know it’s probably a little frustrating that Harry told Bill everything before anyone else, but it sort of sets the stage for how they’re going to interact moving forward as well. Bill’s backstory was something I came up with really early on in conceptualising the story as something that would bond him and Harry, and it also felt like something that would be totally realistic in his line of work. Also, it hasn’t come up in anything I’ve written so far, but my headcanon is that the summer the Weasleys went to Egypt after winning the lottery was right after that had happened with Bill, and he and Ginny bonded over traumatic things happening to both of them recently. Now that I’m writing it out, I’m making a note in my plans for Book 3 to try and work that in. Even when I’m taking a break from writing, I can’t help but be thinking of new ideas!

As always, hope you’re enjoying, and I can’t wait for you to read the last chapter of this initial release: Brave!
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