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Chapter 2: Family, feelings and Floo network.
Another CI by shabdabdingdong @TDA.
"And they weren't surprised at all?" Ron asked.
"Well, surprised isn't really appropriate. They were kind of mad that I had modified their memories, which I can totally understand, but said the same thing as McGonagall, that it was a difficult decision to take. They also said they were extremely proud of me. Can you believe it?" Hermione beamed as she recalled her encounter with her parents.
"Yes," Ron said in a low voice, "I can believe it because you are an amazing person, a beautiful girl and a talented witch." Seeing Harry lift his head up in shock at what he had just heard, Ron's ears turned crimson red. However, Hermione herself had clearly missed out on Ron's sentence as she was still staring in an unfocused manner at the wall in front of her. She was so oblivious that she did not even notice Harry, eyebrows creased in reflexion, leave the room with Ron just behind him.
"Blimey Harry, I'm not going to just walk up to her and repeat what I said an hour ago," Ron grumbled for the umpteenth time.
Harry sighed. They had been sitting on the floor of the destroyed Owlery, surrounded by the crumbling stone walls, for quite some time now, and still had not come to a conclusion. The Owlery had seemed like a good place to go for peace and quiet to talk without being disturbed, but this had allowed Ron to ramble for much longer than Harry would have wished.
"Okay. You love Hermione, right?"
"Erm... How d'you know if you love someone or not?"
"You...," Harry looked thoughtful for a moment, "You feel like something is missing when she's not there, you feel like a fool when she is there but her presence makes everything seem more beautiful, you can't imagine your future with anybody else and – what?" Ron was staring blankly at him.
"Have you ever felt that for anyone?" From the way he voiced the question, Harry knew Ron was referring to Ginny.
"That's not what we're talking about." Harry was ashamed of having been so obvious: of course he was thinking about Ginny, he missed her like hell, her hair, her eyes, her smile, her body... Stop, he told himself, this is Ron and Hermione we're talking about, not you and Ginny... Ginny... I miss her so much. Ron was still grinning at him, and Harry had to laugh. "So? D'you love Hermione or not?" he asked in a desperate attempt to move on to another subject. Ron's smile vanished and he looked thoughtful again.
"I guess so. But bloody hell Harry, when did that happen? I used to think she was a know-it-all, stuck up bitch for Merlin's sake. How can I be in love with her? Her, of all people?" He punched the air with his fist, trying to find an answer.
Ron's rant was interrupted by the sound of footsteps, and George entered the room. His eyes were rimmed with red and a long, thin, slightly bleeding line ran along his cheek.
"Oh. Sorry," he mumbled without really paying attention to who he had just walked in on. Lifting his head up, he suddenly noticed Harry and his eyes narrowed at him. Ron shuffled his feet, hesitating between siding up to his brother or standing up for his best friend. Harry just stared back at George, preparing himself to hear what he did not want to hear, though he totally agreed with it: he was responsible for Fred's death.
"Thanks." The word escaped George's mouth.
Harry was startled, this was absolutely not expected.
"Thanks for destroying Voldemort, and for saving the rest," George swallowed, "saving the rest of my family."
"I'm sorry for Fred," Harry started, but George stopped him, reading his thoughts. "Harry, it's not your fault. Fred always said he'd rather die a hero than die senile and covered in his own piss anyway." He then abruptly turned to Ron, as if he could not bear to speak to Harry anymore.
"Mum has been driving herself mad wondering where you both are. You coming? Hermione's already with us." Before he walked out, Ron caught his older brother around the shoulders and both Weasley brothers walked out, Harry following them.
The Great Hall was bustling as the trio entered, and hushed down as Harry came in. He hated seeking all the attention, and slid into a seat next to the Weasleys as soon as he saw them. A flowery smell made him realise who was his neighbour. Ginny. She seemed to be avoiding his gaze as much as possible, and Harry felt something break inside his heart. Before he had much time to ponder on why she was acting like this, McGonagall's voice echoed throughout the Hall.
"Excuse me for interrupting your dinner, but I have several announcements to make. First of all, I would like to thank every one of you for having fought the Dark Lord so bravely." She paused, letting a round of applause fill up the Hall. "I also wish, in the name of all of Hogwarts' staff, to communicate our sorrow for all of your losses. A commemorative ceremony will be held on the school grounds in a few weeks, but I understand that many of you will wish to seek the comfort of your families in these times. Therefore, Hogwarts is going to be closed down." A collective and horrified gasp escaped the crowd.
"This is not definitive," McGonagall immediately explained, "but severe repares need to be made in the castle. This also means that exams will be cancelled. Students will nonetheless be able to pass into the following year. Those who wish to, however, may redo the year they have just gone through, as the lessons were not all taught properly. And this, if I may say so, is an understatement." She was obviously thinking of the Carrows, as were the students who suppressed half-smiles or just nodded in agreement. "I would finally like to inform you of a career opportunity. Kingsley Shacklebolt, our temporary Ministry of Magic, has informed me that those of you wishing to become Aurors may do so without any N.E.W.T.S., considering the capacities you proved yourselves to possess in these past few days. That will be all, I thank you once again for everything you have done."
Everyone was starting to move, all of a sudden seeming to want to flee from Hogwarts and all the memories it contained.
"Harry?" Mrs Weasley called out to him, "Will you be coming with us?"
All the Weasleys, except Ginny, looked at him with expectation.
"Yes. Please." He was watching Ginny very closely; she seemed irritated by Harry having accepted the offer. Why? He interiorly grumbled. WHY is she acting like this for Merlin's sake?
Why did you have to accept? Why are you doing this to me? I don't want to see you around anymore Potter, she winced as she realised she was calling him by his surname now, you and your tortured eyes, don't you think we lost more than you here? Why did we ever have to meet you? Why in the name of Merlin's dirtiest pants did I ever fall for you? It's driving me mad! And it's not as if you were making things easier, staring at me all the time – thought I couldn't see you? Ha! Why, why, why? You drive me so – ugh, no, look down, look down this instant!
She immediately dropped her gaze, having noticed two brilliant emeralds – God, I sound so cheesy, look down you GIT – staring at her. Don't. Even. Think. About. It. If he comes up and talks to me, I swear I'll just walk out on him.
"Ginny?" Thank God. "Luna!" She threw herself into her friend's arms. It had been Luna who had been at Ginny's side after Fred's death, comforting her. Who had found her, Ginny Weasley, the hot-tempered red-head, whimpering under a crumbling stone staircase, tears streaming out of her eyes, incapable of moving or talking, let alone think properly. Luna had quietly approached her.
"Shh, don't worry. He's safe now. And he's still with you. Here," she indicated her own heart. That was all Ginny needed to hear. And though she started really crying, a little voice at the back of her head told her the pain would be soothed eventually. Luna had then pulled her up, but instead of accompanying her back to the Gryffindor tower, she had led her outside the castle. And Ginny's eyes had widened in shock.
"Wow. I can actually see them," she breathed. There were quite a few Thestrals, and two of them approached the girls. Luna smiled dreamily as one of them came so close it was only inches from her face.
"Course you can. And even though the reason why you can see them is sad, they're here to help you remember Fred."
Ginny felt as if someone had stabbed her in the guts as she heard her brother's name.
"I don't need any help to remember him," she growled. Luna looked at her, taken aback by the violence in Ginny's voice.
"I know that. What I mean is that they create a connection between you and those who left. I used to talk to Thestrals all the time after my mother's death. I think she's the one who sent them to me. And every single time I see one of them, I know she's not too far away."
Remembering this conversation, tears sprung to Ginny's eyes again and before she even realised what was happening, a handkerchief appeared in front of her face.
"Thanks," she mumbled, barely looking at Harry. Turning her back on him, she resumed talking to Luna, but her mind was wandering elsewhere as she inhaled the smell that lingered on the tissue while wiping her eyes and nose.
Prat. It's your fault Fred is dead. If it weren't for you, if we had never met you seven years ago and had not decided to be with you to fight yesterday, he would still be here, laughing at me, with me, he would have made a stupid comment on the Carrows and then we would all have gone home.
Ginny was of course perfectly conscious that she was lying to herself. But the pain of losing her brother, who had always been there to cheer her up and make her smile, could for now only trigger negative feelings. Forgiveness, and hopefully happiness, would come later.
Harry let out a frustrated sigh, and waited for another reaction on Ginny's part, which never came. His brooding thoughts were interrupted when Luna gave him a hug. He had not realised she was leaving, but saw Xenophilius waiting for her by the door, trunks at his feet. Before getting a chance to say anything, Luna was already out of the room, waving and mouthing "I'll miss you" to all her friends. Ginny was now standing on her own, though not very far from the other Weasleys, and Harry seized the occasion.
"Ginny?" he asked rather tentatively.
"Yes, what?" she sighed. Harry stepped back, not exactly sure of what to say or how to react.
"Could I have a minute?" He was almost pleading.
"No," the answer came out sharply. "Whatever you need to say can be heard by my family." Thankfully enough, Harry realised, Fleur was talking rather loudly and the whole Weasley family was fascinated by whatever she was saying. The Veela's blue eyes crossed his own, and he realised with a surge of gratefulness that she had overheard his exchange with Ginny and was giving him the space to talk.
"Ginny," he stared straight into his eyes. "I don't think we should get back together. At least not now." An unidentified emotion - Surprise? Relief? Sadness?- flashed through her eyes, but soon they turned cold again. She nodded briefly, then seemed to reconsider.
"Because we both need to rebuild ourselves before rebuilding our relationship." He looked at her quizzically to see if she agreed, and Ginny nodded again. "I don't think I'm ready for us. But," he hesitated, "I don't think that means I never will be." And to his greatest surprise, Ginny quickly grabbed his hand and gave it a squeeze, before letting go. Her eyes, Harry noticed, had lit up ever so slightly, and as she whispered an almost inaudible "Thank you" he felt much better than he had previously.
During the battle, the evacuation of Hogwarts had gone rather smoothly, everyone terrified by Voldemort's looming presence. Now, with Voldemort dead, the Great Hall was buzzing with the noise of people talking while waiting for the Portkeys that would take them home. Kingsley had given special permission to enchant as many objects as necessary, and Professors Flitwick, Slughorn, Trelawney and Sprout were managing the departures. Everybody was patiently standing in the slowly-moving lines, the only exception being a hysterical Hufflepuff that had collapsed because of the heat, causing some agitation as she was levitated out of the Hall by Madam Pomfrey.
"Potter!" It was difficult, despite the noise, not to hear McGonagall screeching at the top of her lungs.
"Yes professor?" Harry was slightly annoyed, he and the Weasleys were supposed to take the next Portkey.
"I need a word with you." She turned to the Weasley family. "Take the Portkey, I'll have Harry sent in later. One of you may wait for him, but in the name of Merlin, only one of you! Organising the departure of so many Portkeys has been a sufficient load of dragon dung for you to fumble with the schedule and I..." She stopped dead, seeming to realise that she had just sworn publicly, and glared at the group, where even Percy was shaking with laughter.
"I'll wait," Ginny stepped out of the line. Harry could not help but lift his eyebrows. What is she playing at? "You should be going, the Portkey is starting to glow," she added.
"Now, Potter," McGonagall beckoned him out of the waiting wizards' hearing range, "I have a favour to ask of you. Do you think you could possibly prepare a speech for the ceremony? I know it is something painful to ask of you in such circumstances, but I think that your presence would have a positive impact on everyone." She looked at him, waiting for an answer.
"Oh. Right. Yes, I'll do it," Harry accepted. He would have preferred not having his stupid status of Boy Who Lived used again, but felt he owed something to all of those who, he realised, had died for him.
"In that case, thank you very much. This way now, you and Miss Weasley will be using Floo to get back to the Burrow, we just need to find a chimney for both of you." She exited the Great Hall, Harry and Ginny treading behind. Harry had not realised how damaged the castle was: rubble was everywhere, some staircases had gaping holes in them, tapestries were torn and most portraits were still empty of their inhabitants. However, the few portraits that were there smiled and waved as the little group passed, and Harry could only smile back.
"Aha!" McGonagall let out a relieved exclamation as she entered an empty, less destroyed classroom, "here we are. Incendio." A fire immediately started crackling in the chimney as she pointed her wand at it. "Now, I must warn you, due to some problems with the Network, you will be Flooing at a slower speed than usual, which may surprise you at first. Off you go!"
Taking a handful of Floo Powder, Harry stepped towards the chimney.
"Ah, and I'm afraid you two will need to Floo together," said McGonagall as Ginny approached the bag of powder. "Once again, this is because of Network issues: you may end up in two radically different places, so for security measures..." She trailed off. Ginny nodded the problem off, walked up to Harry and took hold of his arm.
"Goodbye, Professor," Harry said just before throwing Floo Powder into the flames, which turned a brilliant green. McGonagall lifted her hand, as if to wave, then reconsidered her movement and let her arm drop weakly by her side, while Harry and Ginny stepped into the fire.
The silence and closeness between them were extremely awkward, and Harry was more than aware of Ginny's small hand holding onto him. It was Ginny who spoke first.
"Percy's going to propose." Harry looked at her smiling face in surprise.
"How d'you know?" Her smile faded.
"Fred, George and I," her eyes welled up at the mention of her brother's name, "went to his flat during the Easter holidays, and we just... happened to find out. But he made us promise not to say anything." She sniffed, fighting back tears. Harry's left arm was around her shoulders almost immediately, the right one still gripped by Ginny's fingers.
"And so who happens to be the lucky girl?" he joked, trying to make Ginny smile. It worked.
"Audrey Blueburn – I'm not sure about her family name. She works at the Ministry, for the department of Magical Transportation I think. She's... a feminine version of Percy," she groaned, "organised and structured and boring, Percy met her at a Ministry-organised conference on the dangers of drinking too much Butterbeer before flying. He probably only went there to have something else to tell Fred and George off about, I can't imagine him going out of experience." Ginny snorted at the thought of Percy on a broom, let alone after having gotten himself drunk on Butterbeer, and Harry had to chuckle as well, relieved to see that Ginny had, firstly, mentioned Fred without breaking apart, and secondly, that she was talking to him normally. Their complicity broke up a bit as they stepped out of the chimney in the Burrow's living room, arriving just behind a soot-covered Percy, who had obviously also missed the Portkey. From Ginny's sly smile as she stared at her brother, he easily guessed what Percy's previous stop was.
The Burrow looked the same as always: lopsided, on the verge of toppling to floor, yet welcoming and familiar. Mrs Weasley was waiting bustling in the kitchen, but upon hearing Harry, Ginny and Percy's arrival she dropped her wand and ran to embrace them in one big hug.
"Mum," Ginny squirmed, "it's not like you saw us twenty minutes ago." Nonetheless, she returned the hug, and Harry could see how happy she was to be home. Something was wrong though.
"Mrs Weasley, where is everybody else?" realising how strangely quiet the house was.
"Ron is in his room, he went there directly when we got home. George left for your flat," she addressed Percy, "about an hour ago, Arthur is at work and Charlie decided to stay at Hogwarts. As for Bill, he and Fleur went back to Shell Cottage, but they should be coming around this evening for dinner." Percy looked surprised: "George went to my flat?" Molly's eyes started brimming with tears.
"He couldn't bear to stay in his room, or go back to his own flat over the shop." She started sobbing, remembering her son, and both Weasley children cradled her into their arms, soothing her. Percy pulled out a spotless white tissue, which he held out to her. She blew her nose rapidly, and, rather thankfully, was distracted by an alarming smell that came from the kitchen.
"My roast!" she exclaimed, running to the source of smoke. She disappeared into the kitchen, only to let out another ear-piercing shriek that brought all the others to the room, wands drawn, face to face with none less than Kreacher.
"Kreacher is so sorry, Master Harry! He did not wish to frighten Mrs Weasley by Apparating in the kitchen!" The house-elf was desperately apologising. Mrs Weasley seemed to slowly be getting over the shock.
"It's fine, Kreacher, you only startled me," she half-smiled. "Since you are here now, how about some help?" Kreacher gave a little bow. Percy, having put his wand away, spoke up.
"I'm going to be Apparating back to London, Mother, I don't want anything to happen to George. If I manage, we may be here this evening, if that's alright with you." Molly nodded and Percy Disapparated on the spot, obviously anxious about his brother. She then swivelled back to Harry, who was patiently standing on the side, not quite knowing what to do or say, as he did not want her to cry again.
"There's a surprise waiting for you in the living room," she said fondly. Bewildered, Harry pushed the door aside and heard an odd gurgling sound coming from behind the couch. The noise came from a tiny baby, with a tuft of turquoise blue hair.
"Teddy," Harry breathed. Mrs Weasley, who was standing just behind him, explained: "Andromeda dropped him off this afternoon. I think she needed some time alone, and this little boy requires a lot of attention." She smiled, but it soon faded. "I'm worried about her. She's lost everyone she loved in such a short time. I hope nothing is going to happen to her."
I've been sitting on the bathroom floor for more than five hours now, crying. My poor baby and her husband... My poor Ted... How am I supposed to continue now? I can't continue, not even for Teddy. His name reminds of my Ted, his looks remind me of my Dora. I could just sit here and cry my eyes out, cry myself dead. Teddy has Harry and the Weasley family to look after him, whereas I've lost everyone who cared. I'm alone. She sobbed even harder. In the space of one night, her life had been turned over even more than it already was. Curling herself into a little ball on the cold bathroom tiles, she started screaming, her mouth tightly pressed against her knees.
She must have somehow fallen asleep (Merlin knows how that had been possible) because a rustling woke her up. I hope it's a Death Eater, so it'll kill me. The noise increased, there was a clattering of glass and china now. Fine. I might as well go and provoke him by tap-dancing under his nose if I want to be killed. She picked herself off the floor and marched determinedly towards the dining room, where the noise seemed to be coming from.
"Cissy?" Andromeda was so taken aback by the presence of her sister that she forgot they had not spoken to each other for years, let alone address each other by their nicknames.
"Hi Andy," Narcissa Malfoy looked a bit sheepish for turning up so unexpectedly. "I'm so sorry... For everything." Andromeda had still not gotten over the fact that her sister was standing in her house.
"What are you doing here? Does Lucius know?" She sounded more aggressive than she wished to.
"Yes, Lucius knows, though I cannot quite say he approves. I came to see you, I was afraid you would have done something stupid." Both looked down at Andromeda's wrists, remembering the day she had tried to kill herself by slashing them open, and had nearly succeeded. Their mother had locked Andromeda in her room for days, and only Narcissa had communicated with her during the full month of punishment, using Uncle Alphard as a messenger, as his two portraits conveniently happened to hang in both girls' rooms. Of course, when Andromeda had married Ted Tonks, relationships inside the family had worsened, and Narcissa had never spoken to her sister again after having sent a small card on their wedding day.
"Well, I'm fine," Andromeda assured. Narcissa rolled her eyes at this.
"Of course not. Your hair is a mess, it looks worse than an owl's nest, you obviously have not eaten or slept very much over the past forty-eight hours, and you've been crying for far longer than that." Her eyes softened. "Come and sit down." She indicated the couch. Once they were both seated, she gave a flick of her wand, summoning pasta and wine on the small table in front of them.
"Eat," Narcissa ordered as Andromeda stubbornly pursed her mouth tightly. "Andy, you need to eat. Come on. One spoonful for Cissy..." The corners of Andromeda's mouth lifted, which was exactly what Narcissa had been looking for.
"I feel like I'm four," she mumbled while sticking a forkful of spaghetti into her mouth. You need to be taken care of as if you were four right now, for your sake, Narcissa thought. Once the plate was empty, she looked Andromeda straight in the eye.
"I'm going to leave as soon as you'll be washed and in bed, and I'm going to give you something so you sleep properly," she returned to her brisk, slightly snappy self. "Chop chop."
"So... Hi Teddy, I'm your godfather." Harry felt like a fool, talking to a baby who probably didn't understand a single word, but he had to admit, Teddy was very cute. "Erm, Mrs Weasley, why is his hair turning pink?" Indeed, the little boy's hair was the exact bubble gum shade as his mother's used to be. A wide smile appeared on Mrs Weasley's face.
"It means he likes you, Harry. And I have to say, you are luckier than Ron, Teddy's hair turned green for him." Hearing Ron's name, Harry stopped paying attention to Teddy, who gladly seized the occasion to catch his hand and bite it.
"OUCH!" Harry yelled. Teddy's face crumpled in fright, his hair turning a deep blue, and for a moment he looked like he was about to start crying, much to Harry's horror. Instead, though, his hair flashed yellow and he burst out laughing, revealing a row of small, sharp teeth. Harry had to laugh as well, but soon regained his seriousness and asked what was worrying him.
"Mrs Weasley, have you got any idea why Ron is hiding away in his room? And where is Hermione?"
"Hermione decided to go spend some time with her parents; as for Ron, I must admit I have no idea."
As soon as he heard about Hermione's absence, Harry realised what was wrong with Ron, though he would never – in a million years – explain the reasons to Mrs Weasley.
"Oh. Maybe I should go see him then." He handed Teddy back to Mrs Weasley, then turned on the spot, Apparating directly into Ron's room.
"Ron?" The room was deadly silent. And Ron was definitely not there.
A/N: OK so this was a bit long and probably a bit boring, but fillers are always necessary... Sorry about that! More Ginny and Harry will come up, don't worry, you already know how it ends anyway! What did you think of the more "human" version of Narcissa: too un-canon? Plausible? Totally impossible? Please leave a review, I'd love to know what you think :)
And I recently read something saying Hermione had eventually gone back to Australia to find her parents and lift the memory charm, so I realised my first chapter wasn't quite as canon as I wanted it to, my apologies again!