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Chapter 8 : Tidings of Sorrow
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The sun was nearing the height of its journey when Ron and Hermione appeared with a crack outside of the Burrow. Ron held his bulging rucksack in his right hand and Hermione’s arm tightly with his left. Tears were streaming down both of their faces as they hurried straight for the Burrow’s front door. Both of them were ignoring the bright sunshine as it sparkled through the forest surrounding the house.
Neither of them was looking forward to telling anyone about their dreadful news of Voldemort’s unexpected attack. Nor were they looking forward to telling anyone about Harry Potter’s death. They already knew that what they had to say wouldn’t be well-received by the Weasleys. Not because Harry was The Boy Who Lived, but because they considered him to be part of their family ever since they had met him at the train station.
They stopped on the porch just in front of the front door. Ron released Hermione’s arm so that he could knock woodenly on the door. He could only hope that the person who answered was anyone but his father.
“Who’s there?” Both of them heard Ron’s father demand through the tightly closed door. Ever since the Ministry had put out the useless flyers on safety, Mr. Weasley had been fanatical about following their suggestions to the letter to the entire family’s dismay.
Ron sighed with resignation when he heard his father’s voice. He briefly closed his eyes as he sought patience. “It’s Ron and Hermione,” he managed to say despite his tight throat. He was trying desperately to keep his voice steady.
Hermione tightened her grip on his arm. She had shifted both her rucksack and Harry’s rucksack onto her shoulder. She kept looking around them fearfully while she held her wand tightly in her free hand. She thought she kept seeing Death Eaters peering out from the most unusual of places even though a second glance showed her that it was just her imagination.
“What is it that you hate to eat?” Mr. Weasley asked seriously.
“Dad, there isn’t any time for this!” Ron shouted through the closed door as his temper started to quickly fray. He didn’t understand why his dad kept asking questions since he agreed with Professor Dumbledore’s statement that he would have researched his own answer.
Hermione suddenly jumped and abruptly flicked her wand.
Ron hastily drew his own wand with terror as he spun away from the door. Had Voldemort followed them? Had a Death Eater hidden nearby as they waited for the perfect time to attack?
“You know that I have to follow the rules,” Mr. Weasley replied sternly. “Ministry employees are expected to lead by example. Now what do you hate to eat?”
Ron exchanged a grim look with Hermione before he continued to search the immediate area for Death Eaters. “Corned beef sandwiches,” he finally replied quite testily after Hermione had given him a curt nod. He turned to the door and tried to open it, but it remained tightly shut. “Dad, you have got to let us in now!”
“You have to ask my question,” Mr. Weasley reminded him, much to their annoyance.
Ron rolled his eyes once more at the ineptness of the Ministry’s suggestions. If they managed to survive, then he would seriously consider finding out who wrote out all of the nonsense and shout at them. “Dad, this really isn’t a good time!” When his father didn’t answer him, he looked upwards for one last shred of patience before asking his father’s question through gritted teeth. “How long was his tongue?”
Hermione gave him a puzzled look when he asked the question, but her eyes quickly darted to the side to watch for any sign that the Death Eaters had followed them. Her wand was constantly moving in an attempt to them safe.
“It was four feet!” Mr. Weasley replied jovially before finally opening the door to their distinct relief. “Sorry, come on inside. We weren’t quite expecting the three of you yet. Of course, we saw that you had sent a few things ahead of you…” He frowned when only Ron and Hermione entered the house, looking very distraught. He peeked outside and looked around the front porch. “Where’s Harry? Did he change his mind and decide to stay with his relatives?”
Hermione swallowed hard and her reddened eyes filled to the brim with tears again. Almost inaudible sobs escaped from her.
“Er…” Ron frowned at the question. He didn’t know how to tell his father what had really happened. He looked at Hermione for guidance.
Mr. Weasley searched the front yard one more time before he shut the door. “Do you really think that it was wise to leave him behind?”
“Leave who behind?” Mrs. Weasley asked as she entered the room from the kitchen. She stopped in surprised when she saw both Ron and Hermione looking like they had been in a fight and that tears were running down their faces. “Where’s Harry?” she asked as she placed her hands on her hips. She sternly looked at the three people standing in front of the door.
Hermione could just see Ginny peeking from the kitchen as she watched them with undisguised curiosity. She looked around to see where everyone else was. She saw Bill and Fleur sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace. The twins were sitting in a far corner deep in discussion. Everyone stopped and stared at them when Harry’s name was mentioned. The silence grew as the entire family waited for their answer.
“Er…” Ron hadn’t been expecting his entire family to be there. “How come everyone is home?”
“Mum asked us all to come home for lunch so that we could discuss how best to celebrate Harry’s birthday,” Bill explained easily.
Fresh tears started to roll down Hermione’s face as she tried to gasp for air.
“Hermione, what’s wrong?” Mrs. Weasley asked with alarm. “What happened?”
The rest of the family watched with growing dread.
“Harry’s dead!” she whispered in a barely heard statement. She looked over to Ginny and silently begged her for her forgiveness for the ruination of her hopes and dreams. “Voldemort killed him.”
There was complete silence following her unexpected statement.
Ginny raised her hands to her face as she reeled from the horrible news. She inhaled sharply and her eyes betrayed her pain and grief. She breathed out her denial and stepped backwards as if she was trying to shield herself from the distressing news. As much as she hoped that it was a cruel joke or that the words had never actually been said, the grief in Ron and Hermione’s eyes denied her even that smallest bit of assurance.
She took another step back as her hopes were dashed onto the rocks of reality. Visions of living with Harry assailed her mind relentlessly. There could be no one else. She had tried many times but each time they never measured up to the one she loved.
“I’m sorry,” Fred stated with an air of calm that was at odds with the look on his face. “I must have heard you wrong.” It was difficult for him to believe that after so many victories that the great Harry Potter had lost. How many stories had they heard about his accomplishments? He had saved Ginny, their father and Ron. How could he be gone?
“I thought I heard you say that Harry was killed by You Know Who.” George finished his twin’s thought as he watched his youngest brother for any glimmer that it was a prank.
The twins exchanged a worried glance when their questions were met with silence. Neither of them wanted to believe that their major investor could be defeated. Both of them had been looking forward to showing him their new line of products: all of the items that would surely bring the badly needed laughter to everyone in the wizarding world. That had been his only request when he had given them his Tri-Wizard winnings.
Hermione silently nodded because she couldn’t speak. Grief had locked her voice.
It was Ron who surprised the twins with his answer. “There was a Death Eater attack at Privet Drive. It was only the three of us against a bunch of Death Eaters.” He looked at the ground because he wasn’t able to look at his family anymore. He felt like he had failed his best mate. He had seen that Harry had known that he wasn’t going to survive and that he had somehow known that neither of his best mates would be able to save him.
Mrs. Weasley and Fleur gasped in dismay.
“How many Death Eaters were there?” Mr. Weasley asked sharply. The change in his demeanor surprised his family because they rarely saw the serious side of him.
Ginny took another small step backwards. She didn’t want to miss even the smallest chance that Harry would walk through the front door.
Ron and Hermione exchanged a questioning look as they silently considered his father’s question and then they shrugged.
“I don’t know. There were too many of them for us to quickly count.” Hermione finally admitted as she looked above Mr. Weasley’s right shoulder instead of at Ginny’s anguish. “There were Death Eaters all over Privet Drive. We were in Harry’s room packing when there were several loud explosions that shook the house.”
“What happened next?” Bill asked seriously. He was now sitting on the edge of the couch instead of leaning back. He also looked far more serious than either of them could remember seeing him look before.
Was this how his brother looked while he was trying to break ancient curses when he was living in Egypt? Ron felt a quick pang of remorse for considering such a trivial thought when his best mate had just been killed. “We realized what was happening and we rushed outside to help.” Ron closed his eyes and wished to Merlin that he could block this memory. “We didn’t even get past the back door. There were a couple of Death Eaters waiting there and they surprised us.”
“Most likely there were some Death Eaters waiting by the front door as well.” George rubbed his chin as he thought out loud.
Ron and Hermione gave him a startled look at his suggestion.
However, Mr. Weasley gave his son a look of warning. “What happened then?” he asked a little more gently. He watched both of them closely. He would have to ask his wife to give them the Dreamless Sleep Potion tonight. Both of them looked haunted by their memories of the incident.
“We were frozen! We couldn’t move! We couldn’t do anything!” Hermione shook her head frantically. Pain rippled across her face as she tried to block the vivid memory.
“I don’t think that we were Stunned, but we couldn’t move. All we could do was watch. Then You Know Who showed up and he must have released Harry from the spell.” Ron clenched his jaw tightly. He couldn’t speak for a long minute and no one tried to hurry him. “Harry tried to fight but he was hit by the Killing Curse. Then the please-men…”
“Policeman, Ron,” Hermione corrected him without thinking. “They showed up with the medics and the Fire Department. I think that was the only reason that Voldemort and the Death Eaters left. They must have thought that the Aurors and the Hit Wizards would have been close behind.”
Mrs. Weasley put her arms around Hermione as she continued to sob and patted her back comfortingly. The entire family had paled during their bleak report.
“Why do you think that You Know Who released Harry from the spell?” Mr. Weasley asked.
“Because he was able to move while we were still frozen in place,” Ron explained as he looked down.
“Then where is Harry?” Fleur asked as she motioned at the area around Ron and Hermione. “I do not see him here.”
Hermione started to weep uncontrollably and Ron swallowed hard. “After You Know Who left, we were finally able to move. We went over to him, but his aunt demanded that we leave before the please-men got there,” he explained.
“You left him there?” Fred frowned at his youngest brother before giving his twin a puzzled look. “Why would you do that?”
“Yes,” George added. “Why didn’t you bring him with you?”
“There wasn’t any time!” Hermione answered in a shrill voice before continuing to cry. She buried her head against Mrs. Weasley’s shoulder.
Ron watched Hermione crying with a great amount of unease. He didn’t know what to do for her. Tentatively he patted her on her shoulder and was surprised when she threw her arms around him and hid her face in his shoulder. Slowly he rested his head against her shoulder before his own tears started to stream down his face.
The entire family stared at the two of them in shock. None of them really could believe that Harry was really gone. Not at least until they had seen it with their own eyes. Even that had been kept from them with how quickly the two teenagers had to flee.
Mrs. Weasley was the first one to react. Tears streamed down her face as she pulled both of them into her arms.
Fleur started to weep with them. Her tears were for the courageous young man who had saved her younger sister during the Tri-Wizard Tournament when he didn’t need to do so.
Bill pulled her to him, letting her cry as he held her close to him. Bill wasn’t positive about what he felt. He knew from his parents’ letters while he was in Egypt that his family owed their lives to Harry and that they considered him part of their family. He couldn’t deny that fact because he’d seen it with his own eyes after he had returned to England.
The twins fell silent. Neither of them was reacting to the dire news. It was difficult to deny what they had learned since Harry wasn’t at the Burrow with Ron and Hermione. On the other hand, they refused to believe that he was gone until they saw it for themselves.
Mr. Weasley stood by the door without moving. He grieved for the loss of Harry, but he had a growing belief that he had to remain focused. Ron and Hermione had brought disturbing news considering that Harry had Top Security placed on him after the previous Minister for Magic had seen You Know Who with his own eyes in the Ministry Atrium. Thankfully it hadn’t only been the previous Minister Fudge. Everyone in the Order of the Phoenix was grateful that there had been numerous Aurors and Hit Wizards who had also seen You Know Who. Because of that, he hadn’t been able to pretend that it hadn’t happened.
So then why did three teenagers who were still students at Hogwarts have to face a small-scaled battle on their own?
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this chapter. Thank you very much for your constructive criticism!
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