lundi 11 février 2008

chapter 20

“Harry will call them when he’s ready, Padfoot,” Remus said, his eyes
peering knowingly at Harry. Remus had always been able to read Harry
very well.

“What’s to be ready? He called us; he can just do the same for them,”
Sirius said, warming to the idea. “They’ll be furious if they find out
we’ve been here all this time without them.”

Harry looked away, his heart beginning to pound erratically. He was
about to meet his parents for the first time, and he’d already done
something to anger them. Great. He wondered if his mum could shout like
Mrs. Weasley, and how it would feel if she shouted at him. And could he
just call them here? He’d done it subconsciously with Dumbledore, and
he’d used memories to bring forth Sirius, Remus and Tonks. He didn’t
have any memories of his parents – not real memories, anyway, and he
didn’t want to use the one he had of his mother’s death.

Remus laid a steady hand on Harry’s shoulder, squeezing gently. “They
won’t be furious,” he said quietly, halting Harry’s frantic musings.

“Perhaps you don’t need a specific memory, but merely the feelings they
inspire within you will do,” Dumbledore said, laying a restraining hand
on Sirius’s shoulder.

Harry nodded, feeling trapped. He shut his eyes and thought of Godric’s
Hollow – not how he’d seen it, but how he imagined it should have been, with lilies growing outside, and a large oak tree with a swing on a
low-lying branch, and a tree house hidden behind the leaves. His father
would be cutting the grass while his mother prepared a lunch for him
and his younger siblings.

“James!” Sirius shouted, startling Harry from the vision.

His eyes flew open wide in time to see the little cottage just as he’d
imagined it with his parents standing on the stoop. They were both very
young, only a few years older than Harry at best, and he vaguely
wondered if they remained stuck at the age of their death in the
afterworld or were merely called forth the way Harry envisioned them.

“There you are, Padfoot, you old dog. Who is she this time? You
haven’t been ‘round for weeks,” James Potter said, clapping Sirius on
the back. Even his voice sounded very much like Harry’s.

“Where are we, Sirius?” Lily asked, tilting her head to the side. She
was taller than Harry had expected, although perhaps that assumption
was influenced by Ginny’s diminutive height.

“Sweet Merlin,” James said, whistling through his teeth when he caught
sight of Harry.

Harry felt his knees give out, and he sank to the couch with
Dumbledore’s gentle assistance.

“What is it, James?” Lily asked, peering over his shoulder. She swayed
when she saw Harry, and James grabbed her to steady her.

“Harry, is that you?” James croaked.

“My baby,” Lily said, slapping a hand over her mouth.

Harry stared, wide-eyed, at both his parents and Professor Dumbledore,
uncertain what he should do. He felt frozen in place, unable to make
either his mind or his body work properly.

Lily broke his trance. She rushed toward him, flung her arms around
him, and hugged him fiercely, sobbing into his chest. Harry gaped at
Professor Dumbledore, who only smiled benignly.

Harry had never done well with crying girls, and this was somehow much
worse. This was his mother! His head knew that, but sitting there with
this young, attractive woman, barely older that himself, crying all
over him was disconcerting.

One thing he was definitely aware of - she hugged even tighter than
Mrs. Weasley.

He raised panicked eyes to his father, who gently came toward them and
pulled Lily back.

“Come on, Lily. Let him breathe. You’re embarrassing the poor bloke,”
he said, grinning. His hazel eyes sparkled as they raked over his son,
and he stood in front of Harry, grinning widely.
“I am not embarrassing him,” Lily said, indignantly slapping James on
the arm.

“Oh, you so are,” Sirius said, grinning. “Our Harry here embarrasses
quite easily, actually. I used to like to make sport of him and see how
red he would turn.”

Harry scowled at Sirius, who only laughed harder. Lily reached out and
gently brushed the hair back from Harry’s scar. He let her stare at it
for a moment before shifting uncomfortably.

“I’ve enjoyed watching you play Quidditch,” James said brightly. They
all appeared to be searching for the right thing to say. As far as
Harry was concerned, Quidditch always worked, and he instantly warmed
to James.

“Yeah? I’ve played since my first year,” he said.

“I know! I was so proud when that happened, wasn’t I, Lily? When you
were born, I bought you this little toddler starter broom. Your mother
was furious and insisted that I couldn’t put you on it for at least
five years, but I knew you’d be a natural,” James said, beaming.

Lily shook her head, but she kept smiling as she reached out to
straighten the sleeve on Harry’s shirt, and brush the hair from his

“I had plans to build our own pitch in the woods behind the house at
Godric’s Hollow. Did you notice it? There was plenty of room for a
secluded clearing, and I thought it would be great to play with the
smell of the ocean on the breeze,” James said, bouncing on the balls of
his feet.

“Oh! I did see the wood there. That would have been a great place for
a pitch,” Harry replied, happily contemplating the idea of a pitch at
his own home. He could have had friends over for pick-up matches during
the summer.

The Quidditch talk continued for some time while Lily kept reaching out
to stroke Harry’s hair. Although disconcerted at first, Harry
eventually relaxed and stopped flinching at her touch. She was very
much like Mrs. Weasley in that way.

“You never could have built that pitch,” Sirius said, snorting while
shaking his head. “The Ministry denied that request because you were
foolish enough to give them your lighting specifications.”

“Well, what’s the use in having an ocean view if you can’t see it at
night?” James asked, sounding insulted. “I could have cast the Muggle-
Repelling Charms myself. It wouldn’t have caused them any trouble.”

“We know, dear,” Lily said, placating him.

James sulkily folded his arms across his chest.
“I think it would have been brilliant,” Harry said, feeling bad for his
dad. He could see how much that pitch meant to him and knew how it felt
to be disappointed. There was something about the idea that his dad had
these huge plans for him and his future siblings that filled Harry’s
heart. His dad had wanted to play Quidditch with him! His own dad.

“It would have been, wouldn’t it?” James asked, the boyishness
returning to his face. “I wish I could have finished it before…well, I
wish I could have left it for you. Your friend Ron and you would have
had a grand time.”

“You like Ron, then?” Harry asked, trying to sound casual. Somehow, he
desperately wanted James to approve of all his friends.

“Of course I like Ron,” James said, nonplussed. “You’ve got the best
set of friends I could have ever wanted for you, and I thank Merlin for
them everyday.”

Harry beamed.

“We were both happy with the friends you made that first year at
Hogwarts,” Lily said. She’d taken the seat next to Harry and clutched
his hand as she spoke.

“Ron will be okay, won’t he?” Harry asked, remembering the curse that
had struck Ron during the battle.

Lily smiled sadly. “I don’t know.”

“Why don’t you know?” Harry asked, fear rising like a bubble in his
throat. “You said you’ve been watching everything.”

“The future is never concrete, Harry,” Dumbledore said gently. “It is
ever moving and changing. It shifts according to how events unfold. We
are mere observers.”

“It’s probably time for me to go back,” Harry whispered thickly, his
throat very tight. James, Sirius and Remus had gone back to their
argument over the Quidditch pitch, but Lily was still listening to
their conversation, and he found it hard to meet her gaze.

“And it is time for me to move forward,” Dumbledore said, nodding. “Do
you want to say your farewells?”

“I think it would be easier if I left first,” Harry said, knowing he
couldn’t stand watching them all disappear one by one again.

Dumbledore’s eyes dimmed sadly, but he nodded his understanding. “Go
forward knowing that your departed loved ones are all watching over

Lily sniffed, leaning over and grabbing Harry’s hands. Her green eyes
filled with tears, but she blinked them back resolutely. She tugged at
a lock of his hair, smiling sadly.

“Your hair has always been so soft. I used to play with it when you
were a baby. I thought it was just baby hair, but it’s still just as soft as it was then. I missed so much – we missed so much,” she said
sadly, biting the corner of her lip.

Harry swallowed. What could he say? There was no denying her words, and
he was at a loss how to make either of them feel better. The past had
happened and couldn’t be changed. Perhaps that was the reason for his
visit here in the first place. Maybe this locked room inside the
Ministry – the one used to study the great mystery of love – was meant
to show him that even though he’d come through a tragic past, it was
the love of the people who’d touched him that was pushing him toward
his bright future. Perhaps that was love’s greatest gift.

Knowing what he had to do, he tried to smile and pulled her into his
arms, hugging her tightly. “Take care of the Marauders. I want to leave
remembering them this way,” he said, his vision blurred. James, Remus
and Sirius were laughing and good-naturedly shoving each other in the
shoulder on occasion. It seemed the way it was supposed to be.

“I will,” Lily said quietly, sniffing back her own tears. “Always
remember that we love you, and that we’re all so proud of you. You’ve
grown into a fantastic young man, and I can’t imagine a better son. I’m
very pleased with the girl you’ve chosen. Be a gentleman and let her
inside your head as well as your heart. Take care of each other.”

Harry nodded, sniffling.

“I’m not going to make a horrid scene,” Lily said, laughing through her
tears. “I’ll let you play macho. I love you, Harry.”

Harry blinked, stunned. He’d never thought he’d hear his mother say
that. He could feel his eyes filling and panicked that he was about to
lose control.

“Oh, now I’ve done it,” Lily said, swiping Harry’s eyes and pulling him
into a hug. “I’m going to stand with Tonks so you can return to the
life you’ve made. It’s a good life, son. Let yourself really live it.”

Before Harry could reply, she hugged him once more and walked over to
Tonks. Tonks wrapped her arm around the other woman and guided Lily’s
head to her shoulder.

“Live well, Harry,” Professor Dumbledore said, dragging Harry’s
attention back to the matter at hand.

Harry nodded and got to his feet, looking anywhere but right at
Dumbledore’s eyes. He allowed the Headmaster to lead him quietly from
the common room, stealing one glance back at the laughing Marauders and
noticing his mother still watching him.

When they reached the entrance where the portrait hole should have
been, Professor Dumbledore stopped. Before he could think about it
enough to stop himself from doing it, Harry flung his arms around the
headmaster and held on fiercely. Dumbledore wrapped his arms around
Harry’s shoulders and enveloped him in a warm embrace.
“You can always find me here, Harry,” he said, resting his hand over
Harry’s heart, “even if we can no longer have our little chats.”

Harry nodded, unable to speak.

“Simply imagine yourself going back, and your mind will do the rest,”
Dumbledore said.

Harry blinked and looked ahead of him, vaguely noticing that the great
expanse of gray had brightened slightly. He could see most of Hogwarts
and the Burrow dimly lit in the distance. He could even hear the
crashing of waves and knew his and Ginny’s private beach was not far.

As he began looking around and taking notice of places, shapes, and
events in his life, he’d started forward, again floating above it all
as his body moved toward the locked door. Craning his neck around, he
realized he could still clearly see the common room, but it was vacant
– a few empty mugs were the only indication that it had recently been

Harry shut his eyes to block the tears. It was time to go back.

Chapter Thirty-One


Ginny stared out the window of the double room in St. Mungo’s Hospital
for Magical Maladies and Injuries, watching the sun rise gloriously
over the just-awakening city streets. There wasn’t a single cloud
marring the sky. She could see birds fluttering around the trees in a
park at the corner, and even the smog from the morning rush of Muggle
traffic appeared absent this day. It was as if nature itself was
rejoicing over Voldemort’s fall the previous evening.

The bright sunlight and vibrant colors contrasted starkly with the
somber mood inside the room where Ginny sat. Throughout the rest of the
hospital, Healers had been rushing to and fro nearly non-stop since she
had arrived. Even with the vast number of injuries they were treating,
the Healers could barely contain their jubilance. Those injured who
were still conscious waited for hours, celebrating in the corridors and
chatting with strangers and acquaintances alike over the defeat of the
Dark Lord. From her hidden spot, Ginny overheard the story of
Voldemort’s defeat growing taller each time it was retold.

The only exception to this euphoria was inside the sterile, antiseptic
room where Harry lay, still unconscious. A serious, nearly awed
reverence fell upon anyone entering the room, and the Healers checked
his vital signs with wide-eyed astonishment. If Harry were awake, Ginny
was certain he’d hate every minute of it. She tried to assuage her
increasing worry by telling herself that he was only staying asleep to
avoid the hero-worship.

When his eyes had rolled back and he’d lost consciousness at the
Ministry, Ginny had felt a brief, heart-stopping moment of panic. She’d
truly thought she’d lost him. His body had gone limp, and his presence
– that same powerful aura around him that had always attracted her –
seemed to just fade away.
Hermione had insisted that his heart was still beating, but Ginny
hadn’t been convinced. When Ministry workers, led by a witch called
Leticia Warbanks had stormed into the Department of Mysteries and taken
control, they’d assured Ginny of the same thing. Harry’s heart was,
indeed, still beating. It had been Leticia Warbanks, a stern-looking
witch with black hair streaked with gray and smile crinkles around her
eyes, who had immediately decided to transport Harry to St. Mungo’s.

Hermione and Ginny had protested, fearing the Death Eaters still in
charge at the hospital might further harm him in retaliation for
killing their Dark Lord. Leticia insisted that there were people at the
hospital who could be trusted. She said that once the news of
Voldemort’s defeat began to spread, there would be a bunch of
volunteers lining up to protect Harry from any wayward Death Eaters.

She’d been right, too. As the news of Voldemort’s fall traveled from
the bowels of the Ministry up through the building and onto the
streets, the Wizarding world that had long been held oppressed began to
turn on their tormenters. A mob mentality overcame them, and many of
the Death Eaters who hadn’t been involved in the attack on Hogwarts
were hunted down and slain in the streets.

They had been executed within the Ministry, in their homes, even in the
corridors of St. Mungo’s by the Healers sworn to preserve life. The
general consensus appeared to be that they would never allow this to
happen again.

There were parties and fireworks and loud celebrations in the streets
all across Britain. Harry’s name was toasted in pubs and on the streets
to anyone who would listen. Ginny couldn’t even imagine what the
Muggles must be thinking about it all.

Leticia Warbanks had been the only Ministry worker who hadn’t
completely panicked over the sight of Voldemort’s dead body, and she
simply radiated authority. She and a small handful of Ministry
employees had tried to maintain order and speak reason with the
rampaging mobs of celebrating people to no avail. Instead, they’d
focused their energy on restoring the hospital in order to treat the
wounded and to assist in the battle at Hogwarts.

As in other places, the Death Eaters who had been attacking the school
had turned on one another. Some tried to bargain and give up the names
of their cohorts to save themselves, but most of them simply battled
their own confusion, refusing to believe that Voldemort could really be

Several of the captured Death Eaters had claimed to be under the
Imperius curse, but their claims were met with deaf ears, and they were
either slain or packed off to holding facilities before they could be
sent to Azkaban.

Ginny had yet to see anyone from her family, and she waited on
tenterhooks for any news. She and her group had all been treated when
they’d first arrived, but only Ron and Harry had been admitted. The
curse that had struck Ron had done a large amount of internal damage.
The Healers had patched him up and repaired his broken wrist, but they’d insisted he needed to stay in bed for a couple days. Everyone
had agreed that it would be best to keep the boys in one room. This
way, the Ministry could monitor their visitors, and Hermione and Ginny
could keep an eye on both of them. Hermione had curled up in a chair by
Ron’s bed, and they’d both been sleeping peacefully for hours.

Ginny wished she could do the same. She’d managed to drift off at one
point during the night, but her uneasy sleep had been plagued by
strange dreams. Professor Dumbledore had appeared and told her it was
down to her to save Harry. She supposed it was simply her anxiety
playing havoc on her mind, but she still couldn’t shake the dream.

She wrung her hands, staring at Harry’s pale and bruised face. The
Healers insisted that it wasn’t the injuries that he’d received during
the battle that kept him unconscious – although they were many and vast
– it was the Draught of Living Death that he’d ingested that was
keeping him from regaining consciousness. His vital signs all showed
that he was alive, but none of their scans had picked up any brainwave

They said it was a unique case, and they weren’t entirely certain how
long it would take him to wake up. Ginny suspected that unique case
meant they just didn’t know. The side effects of the antidote they’d
given him were nausea and fever. The potion forced his body to fight in
order to expel the poisons, so even after he’d regained consciousness,
Harry was in for a rough recovery. Ginny couldn’t even bring herself to
think about what the lack of brain activity could mean. It was simply
more than she could bear at the moment.

The Healers still didn’t know anything about the Horcrux that had
resided within Harry’s soul. Ginny had nearly blurted everything when
they’d begun examining him, but Hermione held her back, insisting it
was better not to reveal anything about the Horcruxes lest any other
Dark Lord wanna-be’s got any ideas. Ginny knew she had a point but
would only agree to remain silent unless it looked as if they couldn’t
treat Harry. Hermione readily accepted this condition.

Although she’d known what was supposed to happen when Harry caught that
Snitch and uttered the Killing Curse, Ginny had been completely
unprepared for the sheer agony that Harry underwent. His scar, which
had been extremely red and hot to the touch, literally burst as the
dark piece of Tom’s soul was expelled. It had bled profusely, but he
hadn’t even appeared to notice. And then Snape…

Ginny scowled as she remembered how her former Potions master had
attempted to curse Harry when he was too weak to defend himself.
Leticia had promised that Snape would be transported directly to
Azkaban, but without the Dementors there, Ginny thought that was too
good for him.

Her face softened as she glanced over the bed and watched Harry sleep.
She was still having a hard time believing it was really over. She
picked up his limp hand and brushed her lips across his bruised
knuckles. His long, slender fingers seemed almost delicate despite his
calloused skin. They suited Harry – something soft and vulnerable
beneath a tough outer shell.
She sank into the chair beside his bed once again, resting her head in
her hands. A soft voice sounding from the doorway startled her.

“Am I intruding?”

Ginny looked up quickly to see a tired and drawn Leticia Warbanks.
Stray wisps of peppered hair had pulled loose from the bun she wore at
the nape of her neck. Something told Ginny that it was very rare for
anyone to see Leticia in this disheveled state.

“No, Mrs. Warbanks. Come in,” Ginny said, smiling tiredly. She sat up
straight, suddenly feeling very awkward.

“My dear, I told you to call me Leticia,” the elder woman said, smiling
kindly as she tiptoed past Hermione and took the chair on the other
side of Harry’s bed.

Ginny smiled uncomfortably, causing Leticia to laugh outright.

“In all fairness, I should be the one offering you the salutation of
respect,” she said, raising a perfectly arched eyebrow. “After all, it
was you young people who freed us all from this tyranny.”

“It was Harry,” Ginny replied, her gaze flicking back to the sleeping
figure on the bed.

“Has there been any change?” Leticia asked quietly, careful not to wake
Ron or Hermione.

“No,” Ginny whispered, blinking the moisture from her eyes.

Leticia nodded, pursing her lips. “I’ve placed a guard outside this
room and given him the list of names you approved for entrance.”

Ginny’s eyes widened in alarm. “Has there been an attempt already?”

“No, not at all. I suspect it will take some time for the scattered
remains of the Death Eaters to regroup, if they ever do,” Leticia
replied. “I’m more worried about the press. They’ve reorganized and are
growing desperate for a statement.”

Ginny let out an exasperated breath, blowing her fringe in the air. “He
couldn’t give a statement even if that’s what he wanted to do!”

“No. And as soon as they realize that, it will be you, your brother,
and Miss Granger whom they’ll be seeking,” Leticia said.

“Better us than him,” Ginny mumbled.

A gentle smile lit Leticia’s stern face, softening it. “You’re very
protective of him. I hope he appreciates it.”

Ginny shrugged. “He’s been through a lot.”

The smile slipped from Leticia’s face, and she nodded gravely. “I’ll
handle the reporters as best I can until he’s stronger. He will have to
give a statement eventually if he ever hopes to have any peace.”
“Is there any news from Hogwarts?” Ginny asked, not particularly caring
what the reporters wanted at the moment.

“The Death Eaters have been contained, and some of the wounded are
beginning to arrive. I’m sorry I don’t have anything more specific for
you,” Leticia replied.

Ginny’s shoulders slumped. She desperately wanted some news about her
family and had to blink repeatedly to keep her eyes from filling. For
the first time, she understood her mother’s obsessive need for that
family clock. She nearly jumped out of her skin when the door burst
open again. She grasped her wand and waved in frantically at the

“Mum!” she said, flabbergasted.

“Ginny,” her mother cried, stopping short when she saw Leticia sitting
in the chair opposite Ginny. Hermione shifted in her sleep, but she
didn’t wake.

“Hello, Molly,” Leticia said softly. “Ginny was just filling me in on
some of the details.”

“Oh, Ginny! You’re all right,” her mother said, collecting her wits and
rushing into the room to gather Ginny into her arms.

Ginny buried her face into her mum’s shoulder and breathed deeply. Even
after a battle, her mother still managed to smell of warm bread. Ginny
suddenly missed the Burrow more than she had at anytime during the
entire war. She wanted to go home.

“What happened?” she and her mother both asked simultaneously.

Laughing and crying at the same time, her mum swiped at Ginny’s tears
and led her back to her chair between the two beds. “Are you hurt?” she
asked, touching the red skin on Ginny’s shoulder that was revealed when
her shirt pulled back as they hugged.

“It’s just a cut. The Healers already mended it,” Ginny said. “What
happened at Hogwarts?”

“What about Ron?” her mother asked, still not answering Ginny’s
question. Her gaze swept the sleeping figure of her son, looking for
signs of damage.

“Here, take my chair,” Leticia said, rising. “I’ve got other things to
check on, and you have catching up to do.”

“Thank you, Leticia,” her mother said as the other woman bid them

“Ron’s all right,” Ginny replied. “He had some injuries, but nothing
they couldn’t fix. He has this scar on his chest right underneath his
armpit, and he told the Healers he wanted to keep it.”
“He what?” her mother shrieked, causing Hermione to shift and turn her
head to the other side before she resettled once again.

Her mum had visibly paled when Ginny had mentioned Ron’s injuries, but
her temper was getting the better of her. “What is he thinking? Why
would he want to keep such a thing?” she asked huffily.

“Since Harry and I already have scars, he wasn’t going to be left out,”
Ginny said, chuckling at the memory. “He said his isn’t as fancy as a
lightening bolt, but Weasleys are used to being frugal.”

Her mother frowned and folded her arms. “You and Hermione are all
right, though?” she asked, her head turning as she inspected the two

“The Healers took care of us, Mum. Don’t worry,” Ginny replied, knowing
it was the same as asking the other woman not to breathe.

“What about Harry?” her mother asked, flinching when she looked at his
unnaturally still form.

“They don’t know yet,” Ginny whispered, her eyes filling again. “He
hasn’t regained consciousness since it all happened.”

Her mother jumped up and once again gathered Ginny in her arms. “There,
there. It’s all right. Not to worry – he’ll be fine,” she said

Ginny shifted in her chair, allowing her mother to sit beside her. The
chair really wasn’t made for two people, but at the moment, Ginny
really didn’t mind the close quarters.

“He ripped Harry apart, Mum,” she said, shuddering as she remembered
the battle at the Ministry.

“They said…I mean…the rumor is,” her mother said, faltering.

“Harry killed Tom,” Ginny said flatly, a single tear slowly dripping
from her cheek. She’d frozen in place when Voldemort’s body had
transformed back into the face she’d once known. She’d only managed to
shake off the trance when Harry collapsed. Even now, thinking about Tom
Riddle caused her to want to run and hide.

“I was told they dueled right in the Atrium at the Ministry,” her
mother said.

Ginny forcibly shook off the memories trying to claim her. “Not
exactly. It was in the Department of Mysteries. Tom followed Harry
there, and they…I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s dead and good
riddance, only he did his damn utmost to take Harry with him.”

“But it’s over now, and we’ll all be certain to help Harry recover. He
can really live now, Ginny. We all can,” her mother said, bristling.

They fell silent as a Healer entered the room. She was a middle-aged
witch with light brown hair and a pear-shaped figure. She hovered by
Ron’s side momentarily, waving her wand over his sleeping form. She appeared pleased with the results, for she nodded in a self-satisfied
way before moving toward Harry.

She waved her wand over him the same way she had done to Ron, only this
time the results made her frown.

“Is everything all right?” her mother asked, voicing Ginny’s concern.

“Your son is mending nicely, Mrs. Weasley,” the Healer replied.
“There’s still no change in Mr. Potter, although it is time for another
Restorative Potion.”

She slid her sturdy arm beneath Harry’s shoulders and lifted him
slightly. His head lolled to the side, but with a practiced hand, the
Healer took a phial from her tray and poured it down his throat. He
made choking sounds and some of the thick purple fluid dribbled down
his chin, but she quickly uttered an Anti-Gagging Spell, and the rest
of the potion slid down Harry’s throat.

Ginny waited for the Healer to leave, keeping a close watch on Harry
and barely daring to breathe. She’d give anything to see his bright
green eyes looking back at her at the moment, but he remained still.

“What happened at Hogwarts, Mum?” she asked, sighing. “Why won’t you
tell me?”

“I’m not hiding anything from you, Ginny,” her mother said, pulling her
tight. “I simply don’t know much myself, and I’m trying not to think
about it.”

Breathing very hard, her mother ran her hand on Ginny’s hair, patting
her with a shaky hand. “Hermione’s message reached us in the common
room at about the same time we heard the wards come down. Most everyone
went outside, but I went up to the hospital wing with Poppy to prepare
to treat the injuries.”

Ginny sniffled, searching her mother’s face.

“After it was all over, I left Poppy back at Hogwarts and came here
with George,” her mother said, her lower lip trembling.

“George?” Ginny asked, rasping, a leaden feeling consuming her stomach.

Her mother swiped a tear from her eye. “Both he and Shannon were badly
Cursed. George was the worst, so Poppy sent him ahead while she tried
to tend Shannon,” she said.

“Why didn’t she just send both of them?” Ginny asked, finding it hard
to take a breath.

“The hospital still isn’t running at full strength, Ginny, and there
are a lot of injuries. I know a large number of the Aurors were also
hurt, not to mention the townspeople in Hogsmeade,” her mother said,

“What about Dad?” Ginny asked, biting her lip.
“I don’t know. I couldn’t find him, so I know he never came up to the
hospital wing, but-” her mum broke off with a sniffle, burying her face
in her hands.

“He’s all right, Mum,” Ginny said, wrapping her arm around her mother’s
back and patting it gently. She felt slightly disconcerted by this
sudden role reversal.

“What’s wrong with George?” she asked, trying to distract both herself
and her mother from dark thoughts about her dad.

“The Healers are working on him now. They said they’d come and get me
here when I could see him,” her mum said, wiping her nose. Her eyes
were very red, and Ginny could see the effort it took to pull herself
together. “Anastasia Parkinson saved both George and Shannon.”

“Mrs. Parkinson?” Ginny asked, nonplussed.

“She was frantic when Dudley told us that Harry and Pansy were missing.
Do you know what happened to Pansy?” her mum asked.

“She’s dead,” Ginny replied flatly.

“Oh!” her mother gasped, putting her hand on her chest. “Poor

“Pansy betrayed Harry and gave him to Voldemort,” Ginny said, gritting
her teeth. No matter the circumstances, she could find no compassion
for Pansy Parkinson at the moment.

“She what?” her mother asked, stunned. Two high points of color rose on
her cheeks.

“She was trying to save Draco, but Voldemort, of course, reneged on
their deal. I don’t know the whole story. There wasn’t enough time for
Harry to tell us,” Ginny said.

“How did Harry get away?” her mother asked.

“It’s a long story, and it doesn’t really matter now. You said Mrs.
Parkinson saved George?” Ginny asked, sagging back against the chair.
She could feel her exhaustion catching up with her as she rested her
head on her mother’s shoulder.

“Anastasia ran outside with everyone else, determined to find Pansy.
When she saw the Death Eater attacking the children, she turned her own
wand on him – and she knew who he was, but she killed him, anyway. She
said she wouldn’t allow another mother to feel what she was feeling,”
her mother said with watery eyes. “Oh, she’ll be devastated.”

Ginny couldn’t help the grin that pulled at the corner of her mouth as
her mother referred to her of-age brothers as ‘children’. Some things
would never change, and she found she was glad for it.

“What about Iris? Is she okay?” Ginny asked.
“I don’t know. She was told to stay inside, but she doesn’t listen any
better than my children do,” her mother said, frowning.

Ginny snorted, unabashed.

“I can’t believe it’s finally over,” her mum whispered.

“I know,” Ginny replied. “I’ve been thinking the same thing all night.”

“When it ended the last time – during the first war, I’d already lost
my brothers by the end, and you kids were all babies. We celebrated
when we heard the news like everyone else, but it wasn’t quite the same
sort of…anxious relief,” her mother said, smiling wistfully. Her gaze
roamed to Harry’s heavily bruised face sleeping on the pillow next to
their chair. “Harry was just a larger-than-life storybook hero. After
it was over, I never really considered the true implications for him.
Now that I’m sitting here worrying about the rest of my family, I can
see the other side of the story.”

Ginny sniffled. “The other side?”

“That while we all celebrated and praised his victory over evil, he was
a little boy who was left all alone. That’s happening now. People are
out cavorting in the streets, while there are many families just like
ours holding their breath and waiting for news,” her mother said
softly, dabbing her eye with a handkerchief.

She and her mother sat together in that lumpy chair, their heads each
resting on the other until they’d nearly drifted to sleep. When the
door to Harry’s room opened, they both turned with a start and were
relieved to see her dad and Charlie stroll inside. Charlie was limping,
and the clothes he wore were singed, while her dad had a bandage above
his left eye and his arm was in a sling.

“Arthur!” her mother shouted, her voice cracking. She jumped from the
chair and rushed into his arms.

He grabbed her and kissed her hard, causing both Ginny and Charlie to
look away, grimacing. Charlie scooped up Ginny, nearly squeezing the
life out of her.

“Are you all right?” she asked, noticing him wince as he put her down.

“Yeah,” he said gruffly. “I’ve just left one wound unhealed, and you
managed to touch it.”

“Why is it unhealed?” her mother asked, finally releasing their father
and turning her owl-sharp gaze upon them.

“So he could keep the scar,” her father said excitedly, pulling up his
own sleeve. “Look!”

He showed them a long, thin, jagged scar running from his hand all the
way up to his elbow.

“The Healers downstairs told us about Ron keeping his, and we couldn’t
let him nick all the glory,” Charlie said, conjuring several more chairs. Ginny knew that had it been a normal situation, this many
visitors would never have been allowed in the hospital room. Today was
anything but normal, however.

Charlie glanced over at a sleeping Ron proudly, beaming at his
unconscious younger brother.

“Honestly, Arthur,” her mother scolded in a hushed voice. “I was
planning to have a talk with Ron about this ridiculous idea. He doesn’t
need you encouraging him.”

“It’s not ridiculous, Mum,” Ginny whispered, smiling brightly at her
father. “I think it’s brilliant, and I know Harry will be touched.”

Her mother’s eyes drifted warily to Harry’s sleeping face, and she
visibly deflated. How could anyone deny him anything right now?

“All right, Ginny?” her dad asked, pulling her into a hug. His fingers
lightly traced the scar on Ginny’s hairline.

“I’m fine, just tired,” she replied.

“George is still with the Healers,” her mother said. “Do you know
anything about Fred, Bill or Fleur?”

“I haven’t seen them,” her dad said, his face sobering. “We arrived
with Shannon and Hagrid.”

“Hagrid?” Ginny asked, gasping. “Is he okay?”

“He’s really in bad shape. Those Death Eaters gave him a thrashing
before we realized what was happening. It was Grawp who saved him,”
Charlie said.

“You know about Grawp?” Ginny asked blankly.

“Contrary to popular belief,” her mother said, rolling her eyes, “some
of the adults are aware of what goes on at that school, young lady.
Yes, Hagrid kept the Order well informed about Grawp.”

“When Grawp saw them hurting Hagrid, he went wild,” her father said,
shuddering. “He’d decimated half the Death Eaters before the rest of us
even got out there.”

“Even then we didn’t have to do much. They had already begun turning on
each other,” Charlie said.

“What do you mean?” Ginny asked.

“It started with Narcissa Malfoy,” Charlie replied. “She threw a wobbly
when she heard Draco had gone after Pansy with you lot. She tore out of
the castle and fled toward the Death Eaters.”

“Toward them?” Ginny asked incredulously.

“Yeah. It was as if she thought Draco and Pansy would be with them,”
Charlie said, scratching his head.
“I wonder if she knew,” Ginny muttered, speaking more to herself.

“Knew what?” her father asked.

“Pansy sold Harry out and delivered him to Voldemort,” Ginny replied.

“What?” both Charlie and her dad shouted, glancing at Harry as if to
confirm he was really there.

“D’you think Mrs. Malfoy knew?” Ginny asked. “Because Draco didn’t.”

“I don’t know, and it’s likely we never will,” her dad said, sighing.
“She and that mad sister of hers started talking – shouting at each
other, really – and then Fenrir Greyback appeared out of nowhere and
killed Narcissa without a word.”

“What?” Ginny asked, shocked.

“Bellatrix Lestrange went ballistic. She turned and started hurling
Unforgiveables at Greyback. I couldn’t believe it! I thought they were
going to take each other out before we even had to get involved,”
Charlie said.

“Certainly none of us rushed to either of their defense,” her dad said,
slightly amused. “Of course, no one from their own side did, either.”

“So, what happened?” Ginny asked.

“Greyback won. He killed her and then the fighting really began in
earnest. I lost sight of Greyback in the crowd after that,” Charlie
said grimly.

“Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange are both dead,” Ginny said,
trying to wrap her mind around it. It certainly wasn’t the way she’d
expected them to go. “Someone will have to tell Neville. He’ll want to

“I’ll take care of it,” her father said, nodding. “Neville was there

“What?” Ginny asked, stunned.

“After news about the siege at Hogwarts spread, witches and wizards
began Apparating to Hogsmeade from all over the country. They all said
the same thing – that they’d attended Hogwarts and didn’t want to see
it fall,” her dad replied. “Neville arrived with a group of your DA

“Is he okay?” Ginny asked, feeling extraordinarily proud of her friend.

“Yeah, he was fine. I saw him with a blonde girl. I think she might
have been hurt, though. She looked very confused,” Charlie said.

“No, that’s Luna,” Ginny said, giggling. “She always looks that way.”

“All the DA really performed splendidly,” her dad said.
“Someone will have to tell Draco about his mother,” Ginny said, feeling
uncomfortable. She was surprised to find she actually felt bad for
Draco. “If he survives, that is. He was hurt really badly.”

Hermione’s compassion and quick-thinking had saved Draco’s life. By
Petrifying him, she’d kept his entrails from being entirely expelled,
and the Healers were able to patch him back together. Vaguely, Ginny
wondered how the Slytherin would feel about owing his life to Hermione.

“Since when do you care what happens to Draco Malfoy?” Charlie asked

“Since he helped Harry beat Voldemort,” Ginny replied, shrugging.

“He helped, you say?” her father asked, his eyes opening so wide that
his glasses slipped down his nose.

“Yeah, he did. He was upset that Voldemort killed Pansy, so he offered
to help. It was a good thing too, because Harry couldn’t have done it
alone, particularly not in the condition he was in at the time,” Ginny

“He killed Pansy?” her father asked, wincing. Although her dad had
grown accustomed to all of them actually saying Voldemort’s name, and
he no longer winced when he heard it, he still couldn’t bring himself
to actually say it.

“What do you mean?” Charlie asked. “What happened, anyway? I heard
Harry killed him with his bare hands.”

“He killed him with a wand,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes.

She met her father’s eyes over Harry’s bed and knew he understood what
that meant and which curse Harry used. She hadn’t really thought about
it at the time, but she couldn’t imagine Harry would get in trouble for
it since everyone knew Voldemort had to be stopped. Besides, it wasn’t
as if there even was a Ministry to enforce the rules at the moment. Her
dad blinked and waited for her to continue. He obviously wasn’t going
to make a fuss about it.

“Pansy tricked him into disarming her, and her wand was a Portkey.
Voldemort was waiting at the other end,” Ginny said, wondering if she
should just wait for all her family to be together so she wouldn’t have
to keep repeating this story. Then she thought that if it meant that
the rest of her family could all survive, she’d gladly repeat it every
time. “Harry got away, but not before Snape poured a phial of the
Draught of Living Death down his throat.”

“What?” her family shouted together, causing Hermione to sit up
straight, blinking groggily. She stared in confusion at the mass of
Weasleys who had infiltrated the hospital room while she slept.

“There was no time to get the full story. Harry said he spit it out,
but he was obviously unwell. He couldn’t sit still or the effects
became worse,” Ginny said, shuddering as she remembered how pale and
sickly Harry had looked when he first appeared in the Death Room. “That’s why he’s still covered in bruises. The Healers said they won’t
disappear until the potion is completely out of his system.”

“Sweet Merlin,” her mother said, raising her hand to her throat. She
jumped from her chair and proceeded to unnecessarily straighten the
blankets covering Harry.

“Mr. and Mrs. Weasley,” Hermione said, finally awake. “You’re all
right! Ron will be so happy to see you all here and safe. He was so

The door swung open again, and Bill poked his head inside. Relief
washed over his face as he counted the number of redheads in the room.
Fleur kicked the door open the rest of the way with her foot and helped
Bill inside. Although he was covered in new cuts and obviously in pain,
Ginny noticed that he seemed far more concerned with Fleur’s well-
being. She didn’t appear injured and instead tried to steer Bill to an
empty chair.

“Bill! Fleur!” her mother shouted, causing Ron to stir. He sat up
quickly, blinking and turning his head from side to side. Hermione got
up and took his hand, reassuring him.

“I’m all right, Mum,” Bill said, grunting and dragging his leg behind
him. “No. You take it, Fleur.” He nodded toward the chair where Fleur
was trying to get him to sit.

Rolling her eyes and tossing her head in the air, Fleur sat down,
muttering, “Zo stubborn.”

It was only once she was seated that Ginny realized how pale and tired
Fleur looked. A lot of her vitality appeared to be missing, and Ginny
became uneasy with the odd glances that kept passing between Bill and
his wife.

“All right, son?” Mr. Weasley asked, his eyes flickering to Fleur

“I’m brilliant, Dad,” Bill replied, his appearance denying his words.

“Where’s Fred?” Ron asked, rubbing his eyes. He and Hermione had been
whispering, and Ginny surmised that Hermione had been filling him in
about everyone else.

“Haven’t seen him,” Bill said uneasily.

“What happened to you?” Charlie asked.

“Ran into an old foe,” Bill replied, clenching his jaw. “Fenrir

Her mother gasped, her hand reaching out to touch the fresh wounds on
Bill’s face.

“It’s all right, Mum. Again, it wasn’t a full moon, and he didn’t get
nearly the chance to do as much damage as he did the last time,” Bill
“You killed him?” Charlie asked.

“Non,” Fleur said, raising her chin. “I did.”

Everyone in the room save Bill gaped at her. He beamed proudly at his
defiant bride. “She was amazing. If she only has a quarter Veela blood,
I never want to cross a real one.”

Fleur blushed and kissed Bill’s hand.

“What happened?” Ginny asked, glancing back and forth between them.

“I don’t know exactly. Fleur came over the hill and saw us fighting and
she….she sort of transformed. She looked like some kind of bird of
prey, and she just attacked him. She ripped him apart, and then she
said the most amazing thing,” Bill said, staring with adoration at his
wife, who murmured something softly.

“What was that?” her dad asked, his eyes twinkling oddly.

“I said zat no one is going to take away ze fazer of my bebe,” Fleur
replied, her nose in the air.

It was as if her mother knew what Fleur was going to say. She leaped
from her chair and wrapped both Bill and Fleur in a crushing embrace
before Ginny had even comprehended what Fleur’s words meant. Her father
and Charlie slapped a beaming Bill on the back, while her mother
hovered over Fleur.

“Congratulations,” Hermione said, smiling softly.

Ginny found she suddenly had to blink her eyes to dispel the moisture.
She was going to be an aunt. Something good and beautiful was already
emerging from all the darkness that had plagued their lives for so
long. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Fleur’s news filled Ginny’s
heart with hope for the future.

“I’m so happy for you,” she choked, throwing her arms around her eldest
brother. Despite his injuries, Bill lifted her in the air and squeezed
her tightly. “Thanks, Squirt,” he said, gruffly.

“Wait…you mean…you’re having his baby?” Ron asked, staring blankly at
Fleur. It was as if his groggy mind simply couldn’t wrap itself around
the fact.

Bill and Charlie laughed heartily.

“Dad did give you the talk about the birds and bees, didn’t he, Ron?
Or in Dad’s case, the one about plugs and batteries?” Charlie asked,

Ron’s ears colored brilliantly. “Shut it, you,” he said, frowning.

Ginny eased herself towards Fleur and threw her arms around her sister-
in-law. She may have taken awhile to warm up to this woman who had pushed her way into Ginny’s family, but as far as Ginny was concerned,
Fleur had irrevocably won her place in all of their hearts.

“Congratulations, Fleur,” she said, her eyes dropping to examine
Fleur’s flat stomach.

“Zank you, Ginny. My zon weel need zome cousins to keep him company, zo
you all have zome catching up to do,” Fleur replied.

Both Hermione and Ginny colored brightly, and her mother cleared her
throat. “There’s plenty of time for more weddings now that the war is
over. Let’s just take the time to enjoy this first grandbaby,” she said

Ginny saw her father start coughing, turning an alarming shade of red.

“So, what’s this I hear about Harry?” Bill asked, his eyes glancing at
Harry’s still figure. “One of the attendants said he battled Voldemort
atop one of the dragons from Gringotts.”

“Oh, he did not!” Ginny exclaimed, exasperated.

Before she had time to clarify, the hospital door swung open, and a
male Healer entered. He stopped short, surprised by the number of
people inside the room. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but
the protective stance all of the Weasleys took around Ron’s and Harry’s
beds must have dissuaded him.

“I’m just going to see how you’re doing,” he said, clearing his throat
and waving his wand over Ron. “Everything looks good, but you’ll still
have to stay in that bed.”

Ron scowled, and Ginny suspected the Healer was merely trying to
reassert his control rather than any real need for Ron to stay in bed.
When the Healer checked Harry, he frowned in the same way the other
Healers had done. As he picked a phial off his tray, Ginny hurried over
and gently slipped her arm beneath Harry’s shoulders, raising him

The Healer’s eyes widened in surprise, but he nodded, accepting Ginny’s
help. She felt her family’s eyes upon her as she gently supported
Harry’s head as the Healer administered his potion and cast the Anti-
Gagging Charm.

She lowered Harry back onto his pillow, gently swiping some of the
potion from the corner of his mouth. Harry didn’t show any response.

Her father cleared his throat and gently squeezed Ginny’s shoulder. She
turned and leaned against him, letting his strength fill her once more.

“Hey, Ron,” Bill said, pulling up a trouser leg and pointing at a large
and ugly arrow-shaped gash. “Check out my scar.”

Charlie laughed. “Here’s mine,” he said, raising his shirt to show a
round wound on his chest.

“Mine’s on my arm,” her dad said, pulling up his sleeve again.
“Honestly!” her mother huffed.

Ron stared at them all, perplexed.

“We couldn’t let you and Ginny be the only ones,” Charlie replied,

“All ze Weasleys have them,” Fleur said, pulling back her hair to show
a jagged wound beneath her ear. Ginny was doubly impressed that she’d
left it on her face – the same face that she’d always taken such pride

“You all kept scars?” Hermione asked, staring at them blankly.

“This is getting ridiculous,” her mother huffed.

“No, it’s not,” Ron said, beaming. “It’s a way to remember. Everyone is
saying that we’ll never let anything like this happen again, but time
will pass, and it will fade. This is a way to keep the memory alive.
You can’t push it aside if there is a reminder staring you in the face

Hermione stared at Ron with tears shining in her eyes. “I don’t have
one,” she whispered.

“Don’t worry, Hermione. When Ronnie here finally gets his act together
and asks you to marry him, we’ll just have to take you out and Curse
you,” Charlie said, grinning.

Hermione’s eyes widened in alarm before Ginny burst into giggles.

“Charlie!” her mum said, slapping his arm although her eyes were

“And you do have your own sort of scar, Hermione,” Ginny said. “Your
hair is different.”

Hermione pulled at her less-bushy curls. “That is true,” she said,
smiling happily.

Her dad patted her mum on the hand, smiling fondly. “Now, if Fred would
just walk through that door, and George and Harry would hurry and wake,
we’ll truly have something to celebrate,” he said.

“Does anyone know where Fred was during all the fighting?” Hermione

“George would’ve,” Charlie said quietly, and a somber mood fell across
the inhabitants of the room.

“Maybe he finally worked up the balls to kiss Iris, and she Hexed him,”
Bill said, attempting to lighten the mood.

“Bill!” her mum said, scowling.
“Iris wouldn’t Hex him,” Fleur said, smiling knowingly. “Eets more
likely she was ze one to jump him. You Weasley boys take too much time
to take action in matters of ze heart.”

All the Weasleys in the room stared pointedly at Ron, even her mum.

“What?” Ron said indignantly, his ears burning.

Her mother sniffled, rose from her chair and threw her arms around Ron.
“Oh, my baby boy,” she cried.

Ron shifted uncomfortably but patted her back nonetheless. “I’m fine,
Mum,” he said.

The door swung open and the final missing Weasley appeared, looking
pale and grave and far too serious for Ginny’s liking. It wasn’t right
to see Fred without a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“Fred!” her dad said, rising quickly but freezing on the spot as he
caught a good look at Fred’s face. “What is it, son?”

“Katie Bell is working here; I saw her when I arrived. She said to tell
you that you could see George now. They’re just waiting for him to wake
up,” Fred said, his voice deadened. He had a long gash on the side of
his face, and his arm was also in a sling.

“What aren’t you saying, Fred?” her mother asked, holding her breath.

“They couldn’t save his leg,” Fred replied. “They had to remove it
below the knee.”

A chorus of gasps and startled exclamations sounded across the hospital
room. Her father’s loud clear voice rang out, silencing them all.

“But he’s alive. We all are, which is far more than we expected earlier
this morning. George is going to survive, and he has all of us around
him to help him cope. Molly, let’s go see our son.”

Her mother nodded and grasped her father’s hand. The two of them left
the room in silence, their heads held high. Ginny took a deep breath.
Her dad was right. The remainder of her family had survived the war,
and that was reason for celebration. George could be fitted with an
artificial leg that Muggles would be hard pressed to identify as a

She shook her head. She’d grown too accustomed to Mad-Eye’s wooden peg
leg. Her dad had told her that he only used that because he liked the
effect. No, George would survive this, and they’d all help him adapt.
Just like Harry would survive it. He had to – it wouldn’t be right

Staring across the room at the faces of all her siblings plus Hermione
and Fleur, Ginny met their dazed stares with one of her own. It was
over. It was truly over.

Ginny released an exasperated breath, blowing her hair out of her face.
She glanced through the large, heavily-draped window at the approaching
storm clouds. It wouldn’t be long before the rain began to fall. She
thought the dismal gray skies better suited her mood than the bright
sunshine of the past few days.

It had been nearly a week since Voldemort’s defeat, and the Wizarding
world was still celebrating, although its savior remained unconscious.
The hospital staff and administrators had regained organizational
control and had moved Harry to the Minister’s suite. Apparently, when
Cornelius Fudge had been in office, he’d had regular treatments for a
recurring boil on his foot, and he’d arranged for the elaborate room
during his stays.

Ginny knew it was something Harry would hate when he realized it, but
she had to agree with everyone else that it was safer to keep him away
from the public. The reporters had been relentless, and even the staff
and general public had tired to sneak in to steal glances at him.

While she waited, Ginny was sitting for her end-of-term exams. Hagrid
was acting as her sponsor, although he was currently asleep and snoring
loudly on the red velvet couch in front of Harry’s bed. He’d had nearly
every bone in his body broken, but he insisted he was too tough to be
kept down for long. He was being released from the hospital in one more
day, and Ginny knew she’d miss his optimistic presence terribly.

Her eyes roamed the elaborate room, finally resting on the Soul Balance
that Hermione had brought from Hogwarts. The strange silver instrument
rested on the table beside Harry’s bed. Hermione insisted it would make
Harry feel better to see the proof that Voldemort was really gone from
his soul. Professor Dumbledore’s portrait had explained how to use it,
but Hermione hadn’t got any readings when she’d used it on Harry. It
was as if there was no soul inside him at all. Hermione planned on
trying it again after he awoke.

Ginny shuddered and looked away, blocking the thought from her mind.
She just wanted him to open his eyes and smile that magnificent smile,
but she was beginning to fear it wouldn’t happen.

She finished the last of her exams and pushed the parchment away from
her with a sigh. Her mum would be happy, anyway. Hagrid, Draco, and
Harry were the last of their party still in hospital. George had gone
back to the Burrow two days ago. Ginny had never been so happy as the
day she’d moved home with her family. The wards at the Burrow had been
reset, checked, and double-checked and since there had been no sign of
any renegade Death Eater activity, her parents had decided it was time
to go home.

She’d been Flooing to St. Mungo’s each day to sit with Harry. Ron and
Hermione had been there, too, although they had more freedom to come
and go since they could Apparate. Hermione had moved back home with her
parents for the first time since before her sixth year.

George was adjusting remarkably well to the loss of his leg. He had an
appointment scheduled to be fitted with an artificial replacement, but
he had to wait until the tissue healed completely. He kept joking that it was much better than if he’d lost a hand. This way, he could still
keep working and other people had to bring his stuff to him.

It was the rest of the family that was having a harder time with it.
Ginny had noticed how they all – herself included – walked on eggshells
around him, uncertain what to do or say. It was Fred who had adapted
the quickest. At first, he’d made a great show of bending to George’s
every whim and demand, but soon had given up on that and told George to
do for himself.

Her mum had been scandalized, shouting at Fred for his insensitivity.
Somehow, however, Ginny suspected that it was exactly what George had
been waiting for. He still enjoyed taking the mickey out of them on
occasion and seeing how far he could push their patience, but for the
most part, he was already becoming self-sufficient even without the
artificial limb.

Everyone knew how remarkably similar Fred and George were, but Ginny
knew there were also some distinct differences. She supposed that if
one of them had to lose his leg, it was better that it was George.

She flushed, feeling horrible for the thought, even if it were true.
Fred was always, by far, the more exuberant of the pair. He simply
couldn’t sit still. Fred was the idea man, while George could make
things happen. Fred would think up a product or some silly new
invention, and George was the one who could make it work. They were
quite a team, her brothers.

Although Shannon had moved home, she was a frequent visitor at the
Burrow and still worked at the twins’ shop. Diagon Alley was getting
ready for a grand re-opening in another week, and the shop needed to be
restocked. In fact, Ginny wouldn’t be surprised if George was the next
one to announce his engagement.

Ginny hadn’t seen as much of Iris. Mrs. Parkinson had taken Pansy’s
death very badly, and Iris was trying to help her cope. The two of them
had returned to their own family home, but Fred told Ginny that Mrs.
Parkinson was planning on selling it and starting over somewhere else.
That, at least, let Ginny know that Fred was still in contact with

Draco Malfoy was also still hospitalized. Although the Healers had
managed to save him, they said it would take some time for his insides
to function properly again. After he’d regained consciousness, he’d
become extremely sullen and bitter over the loss of his mother. Ginny
had visited him once, but he made it clear that she wasn’t welcome, and
she hadn’t tried to go back.

She’d seen Dudley visiting his room several times. The Dursleys had
returned to Surry, but Dudley was obviously keeping his ties with the
Wizarding world. Dudley had even stopped by to check on Harry once, but
his outright fascination with the spells used during the battle and how
Harry had gained the power to defeat Tom unnerved her. There was
something about pudgy Dudley Dursley that made her very uncomfortable.

Ginny glanced up as the first drops of rain spattered against the
window. She watched as tiny rivulets began to trickle down the pane, lulled by the calming sound. Allowing some of her tension to ease, she
wasn’t quite aware when Harry began to move. A slight moan finally
caught her attention, causing her eyes to widen as she became fully

She watched his eyelids began to flutter – something that hadn’t
happened at all over the past week.

Barely able to breathe, she reached out to run her fingers through his
hair. “Harry,” she whispered.

His head moved slightly. “Mum,” he moaned.

Ginny pulled back, her heart racing. Mum? Harry didn’t even know his
mum, poor thing. It seemed odd that he would be calling for her. Her
heart began to race, the fear of what damage might have been caused to
his brain bubbling to the surface. She prayed he was only dreaming. Her
heart lurched, and she wanted to choke on her grief over the idea that
Harry was dreaming of his dead mum. Her helplessness was overpowering.

“Harry, can you hear me?” she gasped, sinking to the floor beside his
bed because her legs refused to support her. “Open your eyes, love.”

His eyes fluttered once again before slowly blinking open. He squinted
and shut them against the brightness of the room.

“Nox,” Ginny whispered tearfully, and the voice-activated overhead
lights dimmed.

Harry slowly opened his eyes once again. The usually vivid green orbs
were dull and clouded with pain. He furrowed his brow as he fought the
confusion that was overwhelming him.

“It’s all right, Harry. We’re at St. Mungo’s,” she whispered.

He was still covered in a mass of deep purple bruises. The Healers said
that the Draught of Living Death had simply slowed down all his
internal organs, hindering his ability to heal. Now that he was awake,
things would finally improve.

His eyes rolled back slightly, but he blinked and tried to focus. A
thin sheen of sweat broke out on his forehead and upper lip as he
struggled to gain his bearings.

“Relax, Harry. Everything’s going to be okay,” Ginny said soothingly.

His breathing became increasingly labored, and his eyes grew wide with
panic. She could feel his body trembling slightly, although he was
still too weak to put up much of a struggle. His lips looked dry and
cracked, and he tried repeatedly to wet them.

“Hagrid!” she hissed, waking the sleeping half-giant.

“What? Wha’s goin’ on?” he mumbled sleepily.

“Hagrid, Harry’s awake,” Ginny said, trying to convey her urgency to
him without alarming Harry. “Go get one of the Healers, please. Hurry.”
“’Arry?” Hagrid boomed, jumping from the couch and lumbering toward
them. “Blimey, ‘arry! It’s good ter see ya again.”

Hagrid’s appearance seemed to alarm Harry more than comfort him, and he
began gasping for breath.

“Go now, Hagrid,” Ginny said, taking both Harry’s hands in her own.
“It’s all right, Harry. Everything is okay. You’re here with me, and
you’re going to be fine. Ron and Hermione are fine, too,” she said,
hoping that would calm him.

He gripped her hand tightly with his right hand, but his left remained
slack and unmoving in her hand. His left arm had been the one to
receive the deep Slicing Hex, and the Healers had been worried about
nerve damage.

“Just look at me, Harry. Look into my eyes and breathe with me,” she
said, locking her eyes on his panicked green ones. “I’m not going to
leave you. I’m right here.”

She wasn’t even certain if he could hear her, but his body relaxed
slightly, never breaking eye contact with her. She could see her own
face reflected in his wide, trusting eyes.

A team of Healers burst into the room, pushing her out of the way and
converging around his bed. As soon as she was pushed back, she could
hear his breathing grow labored again.

The lead Healer waved her wand over him while two others tried to calm

“No,” he gasped, weakly attempting to push the wand away.

A fourth Healer gathered several potions and began trying to pour them
down Harry’s throat. He spit out the first one, his head thrashing from
side to side. His voice was hoarse and scratchy, and she couldn’t
understand his words.

“You’re frightening him!” Ginny snarled, pushing her way between them
and re-claiming her place by Harry’s side. Taking his good hand in
hers, she clutched it to her face.

“Please move aside, Miss. We need to tend to his injuries,” a young
Healer said arrogantly.

“Yeah, you’re doing a really good job of that,” she said sarcastically.
“The last thing he remembers is fighting Voldemort for his life. Before
that, he was being held prisoner and had a potion that would relatively
render him a zombie poured down his throat. Of course he’s fighting
you! He’ll calm down if you let him know you don’t mean him any harm.”

All four of the Healers gasped when she said ‘Voldemort’. One of them
even took a step back, raising her hands protectively in front of her
face. Ginny was livid.
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake, he’s dead!” she snapped. She furiously spun
away from the Healers, instead turning her attention back to Harry.
“Listen to me, Harry. It’s okay. They’re here to help you.”

His eyes moved around the room wildly. She kept a grip on his good
hand, while using her other to stroke the side of his face. She
whispered calm, soothing words, and he began to regain control of his

He looked up at her – desperate and bewildered – and her throat
tightened, wanting this to end for him. She knew her presence was
calming him, but he still hadn’t shown any sign that he actually
recognized her. She desperately wanted to ask him if he knew her, but
understood that would sound shallow and vain in front of all the other
possible health concerns he was facing. She couldn’t help the feeling,

She wanted him back – and she wanted him with her.

Harry calmed enough to allow the Healers to administer their potions.
He took them meekly, although never letting go of Ginny’s hand. The
Healers cleared out of the room, several of them lingering
unnecessarily. They said that the Healing potions would finally begin
to work now that he was conscious, but he was obviously exhausted.

His eyes began to droop heavily. She watched, amused, as he attempted
to fight the sleep that was trying to claim him.

“Shut your eyes and rest, Harry,” she whispered, brushing her lips
across his damp forehead. “I’ll be here when you wake.”

She’d brought her bear, Snot, from home. Originally, she’d hoped it
might bring Harry some comfort, but she’d found herself using it while
she waited for him to wake. She rested the bear on the pillow beside
him, pleading with her old faithful friend to watch over him.

Harry turned his head toward her and quickly drifted off to sleep with
his face resting on Snot. Ginny continued to stroke his hair, feeling
lighter than she had in days. She still had the nagging worry about his
mind, but there was one thing that brightened her thoughts. Every other
year of Harry’s schooling, they’d sent him home battered to recover
under the questionable care of the Dursleys. This year – this time – it
would be different. Harry would come home to the Burrow, and all of
them would see to it that he finally got all the positive attention he
so deserved.

Chapter Thirty-Two

A New Beginning

A low, distant rumbling intruded upon the quiet, dragging Harry back to
consciousness. The noise sounded far away, but it was persistent,
piercing the warmth and darkness that surrounded him. His mind
struggled to hold onto the last vestiges of sleep, but a giant boom
cracked overhead, causing his eyes to fly open with a start, his
breathing fast and irregular.
The room where he lay was dim, lit only by a single candle hanging on
the wall in a far corner. Without his glasses, all he could see was a
fuzzy blur of light, anyway. The heavy curtains next to his bed hid the
night sky, although he could hear a heavy downpour of rain splattering
against the window.

He blinked, feeling very disoriented. He could tell he was in hospital
and had a vague memory of Ginny being with him, but he couldn’t grasp
the details. Distorted memories of his parents and others that he’d
lost filled his mind, confusing him. He couldn’t focus his thoughts,
however, because his body’s various aches and pains began demanding his

An invisible weight pressed down on his chest, and his limbs felt
leaden. Although no Petrifying Spells or ropes were holding him, he was
completely immobilized. He was incredibly sore, and he desperately
needed a drink to quench his intense thirst. Above all the other aches
and pains – even his thirst – his head hurt the worst. He was grateful
for the dim lights, because he didn’t think he could handle any
brightness just then.

He briefly considered closing his eyes and drifting back to sleep, but
he needed to know what had happened to everyone else. His confused mind
refused to give him any details, but he knew the others were in
trouble. He groaned, attempting to rise on his pillows and was dismayed
to realize that he couldn’t do it. His right arm was weak and shook
when he tried to move it, while his left was completely unresponsive.

Panicking, he tried to reach for his glasses on the bedside table.
Sweat broke out on his forehead as he strained to reach them, but his
arm felt like lead. He finally had to give up, and, panting, he laid
his spinning head back on the pillow. His breathing hitched, and he
groaned again. What’s wrong with me?

“Harry!” Hermione shouted, opening the door to find him so agitated.
“Merlin! How typical of you to stay asleep the entire time I’m sitting
here and only wake up when I take a moment to use the loo.”

She walked across the room, reached for his glasses, and gently placed
them on his nose. Her concerned face came into focus as he struggled to
control his rapid breathing. He gazed at his surroundings, not
recognizing the room but knowing he wasn’t in the hospital wing at

“Wh-” he croaked, his voice scratchy and dry from lack of use.

“Shh. Take it easy,” Hermione whispered, wordlessly conjuring a glass
of water.

She slipped her arm beneath his shoulders and gently hoisted him so he
could swallow it. It felt wonderfully cold and refreshing sliding down
his throat, relieving the burning pain.

“You’re in St. Mungo’s,” Hermione said, adjusting the pillows behind
Harry’s back. “Do me a favor and pretend you slept through the night.
Ginny is going to be so livid. Mrs. Weasley insisted that she needed to go home and get some sleep, and the Healers didn’t think you’d wake up
again before morning. We’ve all been taking shifts sitting with you,
but Ginny was adamant that she’d promised you she’d be here. She didn’t
want to leave.”

Another loud crack of thunder rumbled outside the window as if in
support of Hermione’s words.

“Volde-” Harry asked, losing his breath.

“He’s gone, Harry,” Hermione said, her eyes suspiciously bright. “It’s
really over. How much of it do you remember?”

Harry scrunched his forehead, trying to piece his scattered thoughts
together. Everything was jumbled, but he could picture Tom’s flat,
distorted face staring at him with an intense hunger. He remembered a
nauseating flash of bright white light but couldn’t say what had

“It’s all right,” Hermione said, taking his hand and gently squeezing
his fingers. “The Healers said that you’d experience some confusion at
first. It’ll come back to you.”

“Arm,” Harry mumbled, again trying to move his left one. The covers
were pulled tightly around him, and he’d begun to fear it was gone. It
certainly didn’t feel as if there was anything there.

“Does it hurt?” Hermione asked, plucking needlessly at his blankets
while not looking directly at him.

Harry’s alarm grew. “Can’t…feel,” he gasped.

Hermione looked up quickly, resting her hand on his shoulder and
squeezing it. “It’s okay. Don’t get upset. The Healers said that the
calmer we could keep you, the quicker all the Restorative Potions would

“Arm,” Harry repeated, still trying to move it. His exhaustion grew
with each attempt, but he continued to struggle. His vision swam and
foggy spots encroached upon the edges. The thunder cracked loudly,
sounding as if it were right above the hospital. Rolling echoes
continued long after the initial crack had passed.

“Listen to me, Harry,” Hermione said, forcefully grabbing his shoulders
in order to keep him still. “You’re not helping. You have to stay calm.
One of the Curses that struck your arm was deep, and it caused some
nerve damage. The Draught of Living Death slowed down your bloodstream
and all your internal organs, so it’s going to take some time to heal.
Now, I know patience isn’t your strong suit, but you really don’t have
a choice.”

Something about her no-nonsense tone reminded him of Madam Pomfrey, and
it alarmed him. Ron had always said she could be scary, sometimes. His
anxiety must have shown, because her eyes softened.
“Will…heal?” he asked, feeling incredibly vulnerable. He fought the
exhaustion, determined to get some answers. Thunder cracked again,
weaker this time.

Hermione blinked rapidly. “We think so.”

That didn’t sound as confident as he wanted. His heart rate increased
again, and he had to take short, shallow breaths. He suddenly wanted
very badly for Ginny to be the one there with him.

“Ginny?” he asked, cringing inwardly at the pathetic tone in his voice.

“She’ll be here in the morning,” Hermione said, her lower lip starting
to tremble. “We were so afraid we’d lost you.”

Harry took several deep breaths, forcing the air out through his nose
in an attempt to calm down.

“Ron?” he asked as scattered memories began to return to him. Ron had
been hit and knocked out by some random curse.

“He’s all right. He was in a double room with you for a few days, but
you know Ron. They couldn’t keep him still for long, and they finally
kicked him out so he’d stop pestering them,” she replied, sniffling.
She began running her hand up and down his good arm, trying to soothe

His chest felt heavy, and a large lump grew in his throat. He cast his
eyes around the room, desperately seeking a distraction before he
really embarrassed himself. He tried to listen to the torrents of rain
pelting against the window, waiting for the next boom of thunder.

“Draco?” he asked when the vision of the horrible curse that had struck
the Slytherin filled his mind.

“He’s in another room,” Hermione said vaguely. “The Healers put him
back together, but he’s got a long road ahead of him.”

Harry knew there was more that she wasn’t telling him, but he couldn’t
get the words to form. He was so very tired, and he struggled to keep
his eyes from closing.

“You did it, Harry. It’s really over,” Hermione whispered. “We’re all
so proud of you. Now we can focus on what we want to do with our

“Dumbledore told me,” he whispered, closing his eyes.

“Dumbledore?” Hermione asked sharply.

Harry’s eyes flew open. Why did he have the distinct impression of
Dumbledore telling him it was time to live? Hermione was staring at him
as if she thought he’d gone mad. Perhaps he had.

He blinked, looking away from her concerned stare. He tried to focus on
the shiny silver instrument resting on the bedside table where his
glasses had been. Hermione, of course, noticed.
“Oh! I brought that from Hogwarts, but we couldn’t get it to work while
you were unconscious. Do you want to try it now? It should only take a
minute, and I’m certain you’ll see that he’s really gone,” Hermione
said, her eyes shining with excitement.

Harry’s breath hitched again. He really didn’t know what was wrong with
him, or why he wanted Ginny there so badly. He was being a baby, and he
knew it, but he couldn’t admit that to Hermione.

Again, she must have noticed his distress and was kind enough not to
mention it.

“Why don’t we wait for Ron and Ginny? I’m certain they’d like to be
here, as well,” she said.

Harry’s eyes felt very heavy, and his willpower to keep them open was

“Go to sleep. Everything is okay. I promise,” Hermione whispered,
gently kissing him on the forehead.

Harry sank into the comfort of the pillows, listening as the thunder
rolled and letting the darkness consume him once more.


The next time Harry opened his eyes, his room was brighter, although he
could still hear the patter of rain against the window. His body ached,
but the pounding in his head was slightly better – he could tolerate
the light, anyway. Everything was blurry, but he still didn’t have
enough strength to raise his arm and reach his glasses. He blinked
several times, trying to decipher the various blurs.

His glasses were slipped on his nose, and Ginny’s smiling face came
into focus. She was pale, and her freckles stood out distinctly.

“Hi, bright eyes,” she said, leaning over to kiss his forehead. “I
can’t tell you how good it is to see you awake.”

Harry closed his eyes again, enjoying the warmth of her kiss. His heart
felt lighter simply because she was there. He was about to tell her how
glad he was to see her when Ron’s voice alerted him to the fact they
weren’t alone.

“All right, enough of that. Let me get a good look at him. You’ve left
me alone with crying girls for a week, mate.”

Harry glanced over Ginny’s shoulder to see Ron and Hermione standing
behind her. Hermione looked drained, but she was beaming at him.

“Hi,” he mumbled hoarsely, his throat burning.

“How are you feeling this morning, Harry?” Hermione asked, while Ginny
helped him take a sip of water.

“’M fine,” he mumbled, letting water sooth his throat.
“You’re still dreadfully pale,” Hermione said.

“Bloody hell, Hermione. He just defeated the most powerful Dark Lord
ever and saved the world – again. He’s allowed to look a little
peaked,” Ron said, rolling his eyes.

“Language, Ron,” Hermione scolded, but her eyes shone brightly. “I was
just about to head home and catch some sleep, but since you’re awake,
why don’t we use the Soul Balance? Professor Dumbledore told me exactly
how it works. It’s fascinating, really, and I’ve been so eager to try

Harry’s stomach lurched uncomfortably. He was feeling slightly
nauseous, anyway and vaguely wondered how long it had been since he’d
eaten. The idea of getting a confirmation from the Soul Balance –
regardless of which result it would give – filled him with dread.

“Maybe it’s too soon, Hermione. He just woke up,” Ginny said, eyeing
Harry carefully.

He leaned into her hand as she gently stroked his hair.

“Why? What do you mean, it’s too soon? We’re all here, and he must be
dying to know. I know I would be. I mean, it’s not like we don’t know
what the results will show. Voldemort wouldn’t have died if all the
Horcruxes hadn’t been destroyed, but I know if I were him, I’d want to
see it for myself,” Hermione said, pushing the bedside table so the
Soul Balance came clearly into Harry’s view.

He swallowed heavily. He didn’t see a way out of this without appearing
weak but talking about Horcruxes was forcing him to think about things
he didn’t want to think about right now. His nausea increased, and a
thin sweat covered his body.

“Ginny’s right. I think we should wait,” Ron said, being far more
astute than usual.

Harry refused to meet Ron’s eyes, feeling very ashamed that his
weakness was showing. He didn’t know what was wrong with him. He
glanced up at Hermione’s bright, eager expression. She obviously wanted
to know. She must have spent as much time agonizing over the Horcrux
inside Harry as he had. They all had in their own ways. He couldn’t
deny them the answer since they were the ones who had worked out the
riddle in the first place, no matter how much it made his insides

“S’alright,” he said shakily. “Do it.”

Now that he’d committed, he just wanted them to get it over with.

“Professor Dumbledore said that they are usually attuned to the owner,
but he adjusted this one to pick up your aura. It should only take a
moment,” Hermione said, poking at the silver instrument.
“Just relax,” Ginny whispered. “You don’t have to do anything.” The
gentle pressure of her fingers stroking his hair was comforting, and he
tried to sink back into the pillows and simply not think.

Hermione tapped her wand against the silver instrument and mumbled a
string of enchantments under her breath. It sounded as if it was
another language, but Harry was too focused on watching the small puffs
of smoke beginning to rise from the shiny silver tube to ask. A thrill
of apprehension ran down his spine, and he really feared he might be

“All right, Harry?” Ron asked, and Harry suspected he’d turned an ugly
shade of green.

Hermione glanced over at him, her eagerness suddenly replaced by
concern. “Should I get a Healer?”

“No,” he said, clenching his eyes tightly and willing the nausea to

“That’s the antidote they gave you,” Ginny said, placing a damp cloth
on his forehead. “They said it would make you nauseous.”

Harry didn’t respond but instead opened his eyes to peer at the green
smoke now rising steadily from the Soul Balance. It twisted and turned
and looked as if it was forming a shape.

He distinctly remembered that he’d seen two snakes the previous time he
saw this thing working, but this shape looked more like a round mass.
He watched as it elongated but his jaw dropped in amazement as tail
feathers appeared on the smoky object, and it suddenly unfurled its
wings. The smoke hadn’t formed into the shape of a snake at all, but
instead, it was the image of a glorious bird He felt tears form in the
corner of his eyes as the sound of phoenix song filled the room.

“Harry!” Hermione breathed, her eyes wide.

“Blimey,” Ron muttered.

“It’s beautiful,” Ginny whispered, watching until the last of the smoke
had dissipated.

“Does that answer any lingering doubts?” Hermione asked, beaming.

“You never do anything just halfway, do you, mate?” Ron asked, grinning

Harry smiled, feeling enormous relief – even his nausea had abated. It
was true. He was really free for the first time since he was a baby. He
felt dazed and out of sorts.

It was really over.

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted,” Hermione said. “I’m
going to go home and catch some sleep. I’ll return later, Harry.”

She stood up and kissed him on the forehead.
“I’ll walk you out,” Ron said, standing to accompany her.

Harry silently watched them go while Ginny hovered over him, adjusting
his pillow and needlessly straightening the bed linens. He enjoyed the
attention, and a small smile flitted across his face while he watched
her do it.

“All right, Harry?” she finally asked, raising her eyes. A light pink
blush stained her cheeks. She knew he’d been watching her.

“Better now,” he whispered. “Glad you’re here.”

“I’m glad I’m here, too. You really scared me,” she said, her eyes
filling. She resolutely blinked back the tears.

“Sorry,” Harry said, alarmed.

Ginny shook her head, straightening her shoulders and adopting a fierce
expression. “I’ll let you get away with it this time, but I’m warning
you – you’ve had your last free pass. From now on, I never want to sit
by another hospital bed waiting for you to wake up. I mean it. Not so
much as a sprained toe.”

Harry felt the corner of his mouth twitch. “Yes, ma’am.”

“No more Dark Lords, Death Eaters, Dementors, dragons, Horcruxes,
potions, prophecies…” Ginny said, running out of words.

“All right, all right,” Harry replied, chuckling. “I’ll do nothing but
listen to Quidditch on the wireless and drink butterbeer until my belly
grows big.”

Ginny scowled, crinkling her nose. “Well, I wouldn’t like that,

Harry grinned, feeling winded from his long speech. “I love you,” he

Ginny’s eyes softened. “I love you, too.”

He closed his eyes, breathing deeply. “It feels good to be able to say
that without worrying.”

Ginny brushed the hair off his forehead. “You feel warm,” she said,

“Did I make you cry again?” he asked, groaning.

“Who’s crying?” Ron asked, re-entering the room. “Did you make my
sister cry, Potter?”

“Seems I’ve made it a bad habit,” Harry replied, his eyes beginning to
“That’s something that’s going to have to change then, isn’t it?” Ron
asked, grinning to soften his words. “Now that Voldemort’s no longer
around to make your life hell, you’ll only have to deal with me.”

“Seems like a bargain,” Harry said, smiling weakly. “It’s hard to
believe it’s really over.”

“Dad said you might need some time to adjust to it all,” Ginny said.

“Yeah,” added Ron. “Just think, next year at this time, no one should
try to kill you.”

Harry snorted, his eyes drifting shut. Ron and Ginny stayed and chatted
with him for a while, filling him in on all the details he’d missed. He
felt very guilty about worrying so much about his arm after hearing
about George’s leg and how well he was handling it. He hoped that he’d
have the same courage as George to face it if he never regained the use
of his arm.

He drifted off to sleep at some point, secure in the knowledge that
Ginny, Ron, Hermione, or somebody, would be there when he awoke.


Over the next several days, Harry was able to stay awake for longer and
longer stretches, enabling him to get a better grasp on what was
happening in the Wizarding world. He also became aware of the media’s
increasingly desperate attempts to gain access to his room. The
Healers, medi-witches, and various visitors continued to keep a close
eye on him as he suffered from the nausea and fevers caused by the
antidote they had given him. In short, between his injuries, the side
effects, and everyone’s fretting – Harry was feeling extremely

Leticia Warbanks had been appointed as the Reconstruction Minister. The
Wizengamot had decided that after she’d had the chance to get things up
and running smoothly, there would be a general vote to decide if she
would become Minister for Magic. Harry was pleased to see the sweeping
changes she was attempting to put in place already.

Kingsley Shacklebolt had taken the position of Head of the Department
of Magical Law Enforcement, Alastor Moody had come out of retirement to
take the position as Head of the Department for Magical Accidents and
Catastrophes, and Arthur Weasley had been promoted to Head of the
Department of International Magical Cooperation.

Ron said his dad was working very closely with the Muggle Prime
Minister to recreate the harmonious co-existence the two worlds had
enjoyed for so many years. He said he thought his dad simply liked
going to visit the man to try out all his Muggle gadgets.

The Daily Prophet was up and running again, regaling readers with
stories of Harry’s life. Ron told him that a hefty reward was being
offered to anyone who could get a direct quote from Harry. He then
tried to bribe Harry into admitting that the Chudley Cannons were the
best in the League by threatening him with a list of “direct quotes.”
Harry had used his good arm to reply with a very rude hand gesture.

Professor McGonagall had dropped by and informed him that Hogwarts
would be opening in the autumn. She invited him back to complete his
seventh year if he wished. He’d told her he’d think about it. Kingsley
Shacklebolt had also told him there was a spot for him on the Auror
training squad whenever he wanted it.

Vague thoughts and memories flitted in and out of his consciousness,
hinting to him that his parents would want him to finish his schooling.
Perhaps it was only because Mrs. Weasley was insisting that Ron should
do so, but he couldn’t shake the feeling.

He thought perhaps he’d dreamt about his parents while unconscious.

It seemed to him that everyone was getting up and moving on with
putting their lives together except him. He was tired of feeling weak
and uncertain and wanted to get out of this bed.

The problem was that the Healers insisted his body wasn’t ready for it
yet, and his friends were adamant about listening to them. He’d waited
very impatiently for a moment like this to arrive.

His friends tended to stay with him all day until he fell asleep at
night, but sometimes, in the early morning, he had a few minutes on his
own before anyone arrived. He awoke one morning to just such a moment
and was determined to make the most of it.

He’d waited for the medi-witch to come in and do her morning check and
give him his potions. Then he sat up and shakily swung his legs over
the side of the bed. He’d grown proficient at sitting up with the use
of only one arm but hadn’t fully anticipated how weak his legs would
be. After lying prone for nearly two weeks, they simply didn’t want to
support him. He was determined not to give them the choice.

His head swam as he sat fully upright for the first time. He had to
take a minute, blinking, for the fuzziness to leave and to regain his

Setting his jaw, he pushed himself to a standing position, his left arm
dangling uselessly at his side. The room spun again, and his legs
burned and shook as they supported his weight. Breathing through his
nose, he slid one leg across the floor rather than lifting and placing

Sloppy, but it was a start.

He could feel a trickle of sweat running down his back, and his legs
were actually shaking with fatigue. The wall on the other side of his
room suddenly appeared much further away than it had when he’d been
sitting in his bed. He had to prove to himself that he could do this.
He’d never be able to work crutches with one arm, anyway. There was
nothing wrong with his legs, and he’d convinced himself that if he
couldn’t make it over to that wall, it would somehow prove Snape right
about Harry’s weakness.
He dragged his other leg forward to meet the first, holding his hand
out in front of him for balance. His knees buckled, however, and he
crashed to the floor with a grunt.

“Bugger it all, Harry!” Ron shouted, entering the room just as Harry
hit the floor. “What are you trying to do to yourself, and why are you
doing it on my watch? Hermione and Ginny are going to kill me.”

He bent down and wrapped his arms around Harry’s torso, hoisting him
back to his feet. Harry’s entire body was shaking madly, and he had to
lean heavily on Ron, which only increased his irritation.

“I just wanted to walk across the floor,” he snapped, panting, “and I
don’t want any help to do it.”

“Well, you’re just going to have to swallow that Short-Snout-sized
pride and suck it up because you do need help,” Ron said grumbling. He
slung Harry’s good arm over his shoulder but instead of turning back
for the bed, he proceeded slowly toward the wall.

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