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Chapter 2: Just Breathe
Harry didn’t think that he would even get used to the feeling of disapparating. It was like squeezing yourself through a dark tunnel while holding your breath and praying for it to end. His feet connected solid ground at last, and he gulped in the fresh air gratefully. Ginny stood next to him pale and dazed looking.
"Are you alright?" Harry asked quickly, grazing her cheek with his fingertips.
Ginny smiled weakly and nodded. She released his hand where she had left fingernail gouges during their trip. "I hate that feeling. I think I’m going to go lay down." She offered Harry another weak smile, kissed his cheek, and disappeared into the house.
Harry looked around the garden of The Burrow where he had landed. The air was still, the morning sun rising higher and higher in the sky. Gnomes hurried about the garden casting Harry icy glares muttering quietly to themselves looking, no doubt, for mischief. Harry was physically exhausted, his body beaten, but his mind had no intentions of sleep. It was over. He had won. The Wizarding world was free. Harry had to smile. He had almost five months of freedom to relax. He could go where he wanted when he wanted, and he wouldn’t have to fear for his life. More importantly, he thought gazing back at the house, he would have Ginny. Yes, life would be serene. Suddenly though, panic rose in his chest. Where was Ron? He spun around scanning the garden; there was no one there.
"RON?" Harry bellowed.
There was no response. Harry sprinted through the back door into the kitchen calling Ron’s name. Again he was met with silence. Sweating now he stood still wondering what the hell he should do now. There was a loud crack in the garden. Harry spun and ran out.
Ron was there looking green with a slightly pink tint. Harry cocked his head to the side.
"I…I…I left a bit of me behind at Hogwarts. I had to go back and get it. I’m going to need that," he trailed off.
"What’d you leave behind this time?" Harry asked cracking a grin and advancing towards Ron.
"Well…I…I won’t tell you exactly. It’s was a very personal bit, you know, mate. I thought that…well…Madam Pomfrey she put it right again, but still…I just can’t," Ron sputtered.
"Ohhhh," Harry laughed as the realization hit him. "That’s some tough luck there."
Ron looked at him blankly. He flushed to an even pinker shade and yelped, "Don’t you dare tell Hermione! Or anyone for that matter!"
Harry stifled another laugh. "You have my word, mate."
Ron nodded stiffly. "I need a drink."
Harry nodded his agreement. "Butterbeers?"
"No," Ron said forcing himself forwards towards the kitchen. "I need a fire whiskey after that fiasco."
"Yeah, I think you’ve earned that much." Harry agreed, clapping Ron on the back and walking together into the kitchen.
By the time that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley arrived in the hearth in a flash of green flame, Harry and Ron were quite drunk. They were settled at the long kitchen table, rocking back precariously on their chairs, having a roaring good time summoning random things in the kitchen to themselves. There was a rather large pile in the middle of the table including everything from cooking utensils to paintings from the kitchen walls.
"A…erm…Accio teakettle!" slurred Ron.
The kettle flew through the air, landing on top of their summoned pile of objects. They roared with laughter.
"BOYS!" yelled Mrs. Weasley.
Two chairs snapped down onto all four legs and Harry and Ron turned their attention towards the fireplace.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
"A..erm…" Ron started.
Mrs. Weasley was red in the face. She flicked her wand menacingly and the pile of summoned objects took flight destined for their original place. Harry and Ron had to duck to avoid being beaten by the inanimate objects. Ron didn’t duck quickly enough though and was thumped upside the head by the teakettle he had just summoned. He yelped and rubbed his scalp.
"Serves you right Ronald Weasley! Ripping my kitchen apart, hmm? Funny, you think? I’ll show you some funny magic!" with another flick of her wand she send a wooden spoon to smack Ron upside the other side of his head, it then gave Harry a solid wallop to the temple before returning to it’s drawer.
"MOLLY!" Mr. Weasley bellowed. "ENOUGH! EVERYONE ENOUGH!"
Mr. Weasley rubbed his forehead. He looked tired beyond words but made his way to the table and flopped into a chair. Mrs. Weasley bustled over to the table and snatched what was left of the bottle of fire whiskey with an icy glare.
"Drinking themselves stupid, honestly, I’ll show them stupid…" she muttered sending the boys glasses to the sink with a flick of her wand.
"Molly," Mr. Weasley sighed.
She glanced at him, back at the boys, sighed, and flopped down into an empty chair.
"Where’s Ginny?" Mr. Weasley asked quietly.
"She went to bed." Harry answered forcing the words not to slur together. "What happened to Fred?"
Ron sat up straighter at this. Mrs. Weasley pursed her lips and Mr. Weasley sighed.
"He’s alive. And he’s going to stay that way." Mr. Weasley began.
"But?" Ginny’s soft voice came from the doorway.
Everyone turned to look at her. She looked smaller, younger, and paler then Harry had remembered. There was fear in her tired eyes. She was wearing a nightshirt that hung limply on her tiny frame; her red hair was tangled and dirty from the battle she had just fought. Mr. Weasley opened his arms to her and she moved toward him slowly limping a little before allowing him to encircle her in his arms.
"Areyoualright?" Ron slurred.
Ginny looked up at him pointedly. "Are you two drunk?"
Harry shrugged and Ginny rolled her eyes.
"Fred?" she asked.
"Well," began Mrs. Weasley. "He’s ok. He really is ok. But…well…you see…he…well he won’t," she choked up and Mr. Weasley patted her hand.
"He won’t walk again." He finished for her.
Silence hung between them all.
"Well," Ron said sitting up a bit straighter and forcing his words carefully. "That’s all right then, isn’t it? Sure, yeah, it’s bad luck all right. But he’s alive and that’s all that matters. Besides I’m sure Fred will find a way to have a ball on wheels. That’s just how he is."
Mrs. Weasley smiled through her tears.
"It’s just his legs, then?" Harry asked. "He can use his arms and hands and such, right?"
Mr. Weasley nodded.
"Well then," Harry said with a grin. "Good news it is! I say we build a nice room right off the kitchen for Fred and George. I’d love to help. I’ve got galleons to spare."
Mrs. Weasley put her hand over his. "You’re a good boy, Harry."
Harry smiled at her.
"Now, off to bed. The lot of you! All this silliness staying up and drunk! And you, Ginny, look like a ghost. Have yourselves a nice long nap and I’ll have some food for you when you get up. Go on now, off you go!"
She kissed the three of them and shooed them up the stairs. Harry and Ginny paused at the landing containing her bedroom while Ron kept climbing. Harry held her chin in his hand and kissed her full on the lips at her bedroom door. She was trembling slightly.
"Are you sure you’re alright?" he asked quietly.
She nodded and kissed him back quickly. "I just need some sleep. We’ll talk in the morning alright?"
Harry smiled, kissed once more, and bounded up the stairs the happiest man on earth. He fell asleep before his head hit the pillow as Ron snored in the darkness.
Harry sat up straight in the pitch black of Ron’s room. Something had woke him, but what? He instinctively reached to rub the scare on his forehead. That was stupid though, he thought, Voldemort was dead after all. Still something was not quite right. He heard it again then, in the inky silence of the Weasley house. A soft moan. Harry reached for his glasses and shoved them on his face hurriedly while listening intently. It came again, soft, female. Ginny! Harry leapt out of bed and rocketed himself down the stairs. There on the landing below him lay Ginny in a crumpled heap, moaning softly. He took two stairs at a time – or three who was counting – and dropped to his knees beside her trembling form. Even in the moonlight Harry could tell she was unnaturally pale. Her eyes were half closed, her lips were quivering and blue, she had her arms wrapped around her abdomen, and her knees pulled to her chest. There was a line of blood leaking from her mouth, down her chin, and pooling on the floor.
"Ginny! Oh Ginny! What’s the matter with you?" Harry cried touching her forehead gently.
"My…my…stomach hurts." She whispered feebly.
Harry very gingerly pulled her legs down from her chin and coaxed her arms from her belly. With only a slight hesitation he lifted her nightdress up over her pale legs to expose the flesh of her stomach. It was a violent purplish blue and swollen hard. Harry’s hands were shaking viciously now as he tugged her nightdress back down. He very carefully gathered her small form into his arms, stood, and with a determined step and a loud crack he disapparated with Ginny held tightly in his arms.