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Chapter 1 : Chapter 1: THE LETTER
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They had buried Fred in the backyard under an oak tree. George remembered that they had climbed it many times when they were little. Once, one of the branches had broken and they had fallen from a very high point. He had broken his left leg but Fred had had only bruises. Mrs. Weasley had grounded them for a month.
Everybody was trying to get used to the idea that Fred was gone forever. Mr. Weasley was silent and tried to find solace in the huge amount of work that he and everybody else in the ministry had. Mrs. Weasley spent hours looking at family photos and burst into tears at the most unexpected moments. Charlie had gone back to Rumania, possibly to use work as a balm for his pain too.
Fleur had proved to be a great support to Bill. He looked calm, even happy although he wasn’t totally his usual energetic self. Ron and Ginny, being closer in age, at least had each other to talk. Ron also had Hermione, who sent owls every day now that she was in London trying to recover the lost time with her parents. And Ginny had Harry who was staying at The Burrow for the summer.
Percy had taken Fred’s dead very badly although he tried not to show it. But he barely spoke which itself was a strong indication of how affected he was. He had devoted himself to help his parents as much as he could. He had also gone back to work for the Ministry. There was a huge mess now that the Death Eaters and their sympathizers were gone and the new administration needed as much help as they could get.
But nobody was as affected as George. The lost of his twin had caused a deep wound in him. He ate very little and refused to work in the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes although after Voldemort death the orders had skyrocketed. The store at Diagon Alley hadn’t re-opened yet so owl orders keep on arriving to The Burrow. Angelina Johnson had taken on herself the task of handling the business in honor of her long friendship with the Weasleys. She kept on saying to George that Fred would have wanted him to continue with their enterprise. But he just shrugged and did nothing.
Harry had woken up early this morning. He had been having a nightmare that involved Hedwig being used as a football by a group of dementors. When he realized he couldn’t go back to sleep, he had got dressed silently so he didn’t wake up Ron and went downstairs to the kitchen. He had sat by the window and observed the sky going from navy blue to pink to a brilliant sky blue.
“Harry, dear, are you okay?” asked Mrs. Weasley behind him. Harry jumped. He hadn’t heard her arrive.
“Yes, I’m fine” he answered. “I just woke up early”.
“I have problems sleeping too,” she agreed with a sight. “Would you like a cup of tea?”
“Sure, thanks,” said Harry.
Mrs. Weasley set to make tea, flipping her wand to light the fire, fill the kettle and put it on the stove. Harry just watched her work. It had always been easy for him to talk to her but since Fred’s death he didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t just go and say, “I’m sorry that your son was killed fighting for me”. Of course Ron, Hermione and Ginny had told him that he was being unfair with himself. Voldemort and the Death Eaters were the only ones to blame for Fred’s and everybody else’s deaths but Harry still felt it was his fault.
So he remained silent, reviewing in his head all the things he didn’t find the courage to express. Funny that he had been able to face the most terrible wizard in history but couldn’t make himself say a few words. He was going through an especially emotional sentence when he felt a beak pecking on his arm. For a second, he thought it was Hedwig but then he remembered she was dead. He looked down and saw a grey owl carrying a parchment envelope with Hogwarts’ unmistakable seal on it. Mrs. Weasley was retrieving something similar from a large black owl.
He took the envelope and the bird left immediately. As he opened it, Harry remembered another Hogwarts missive that eight years ago had changed his life forever. He unfolded the letter and read:
Dear Mr. Potter,
We are pleased to inform you that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the Ministry of Magic have decided to extend 7th Year admittance to those young witches and wizards who due the recent months’ tragic events could not complete their last school year. This extraordinary admittance process is also open to those who took the 7th year program but feel that the regrettable alterations made to the syllabus last year will harm their desired career path.
Those who decide to accept this offer will take their N.E.W.T.s at the end of the school year. Last year’s graduates who esteem that their magical education is complete will be able to take their N.E.W.T.s on August 15th at Ministry of Magic premises.
Please fill in the attached form stating clearly your answer and return via Owl.
Harry stared at the paper for a while and thinking he had misunderstood it, re-read it twice before realizing that indeed, he had been offered to come back to Hogwarts.
“Is there any problem, honey?” asked Mrs. Weasley with concern.
“Problem? No!” assured Harry and unable to articulate an answer gave his letter to Mrs. Weasley. She read it quickly and squeaked.
“This is wonderful!” she said in an excited voice and grabbing the letter that had been delivered by the other owl, disapparated. Harry presumed that it was addressed to Ron and she had gone to wake him up.
Indeed, barely a couple minutes later Mrs. Weasley re-apparated in the kitchen with a delighted expression. Harry hasn’t seen her so happy for a long time. Almost immediately he felt hurried feet coming down the staircase and shortly afterwards Ron entered the kitchen running.
“Man, this is brilliant!” Ron exclaimed as soon as he saw Harry
“Good morning to you too” said Harry smiling.
“What? Oh! Good morning” replied Ron and sat next to Harry. “You are going back. Aren’t you?”
“Well… I guess”.
“What do you mean, ‘you guess’? If you don’t go back I am not going either!”
“Ronald Weasley!” shouted Mrs. Weasley
“Well, I’m not!” Ron affirmed stubbornly “I don’t want to be there alone”.
“There’s hardly a chance you will be there alone” argued Harry. “I am sure Hermione won’t pass the chance to graduate and Ginny will be a seventh-year now too”.
“Harry is right” Mrs. Weasley agreed. “I have been so worried about your future. Both of your future” she added looking at Harry intently.
“Oh! Don’t be, Mrs. Weasley, I’m going back” replied Harry, touched as always by her affection.
“ Great!” exclaimed Ron jumping. “Maybe you will be an Auror after all”.
Harry thought about Ron’s words while his friend talked animatedly with his mother about their return to Hogwarts. He wasn’t sure he wanted to be an Auror anymore. He felt he had dealt with enough dark magic for a lifetime. The truth was he didn’t know what he was going to do with his life now that Voldemort was dead. Surviving and fighting him had occupied most of his thoughts and energy the last seven years and even when he had considered life A.V. (After Voldemort) it had always seemed as a very distant possibility. Well, the time to decide was now and Harry felt completely clueless. That extra year at Hogwarts couldn’t have come in a better moment.
As the rest of the Weasley arrived to the kitchen for breakfast they were greeted with the news. Everybody thought it was wonderful, especially Ginny, which made Harry think that he had made the right decision. The conversation excited even George. They all agreed that having the chance to finish their education opened a wide range of opportunities to the young witches and wizards. George added that it also gave Gryffindor a last chance to kick Slytherin’s ass at Quidditch.
“In times like these…” declared Percy solemnly, “is when the Wizarding community needs all its members, especially the younger ones to be prepared and armed with the best tools they can get. This is the only way to reconstruct and build a better world…”
Ron rolled his eyes and Ginny was about to say something when the noises of the chickens in the backyard distracted them. Harry looked through the open window and saw Hermione who must had just apparated walking towards the kitchen door, a letter in her right hand a huge grin on her face.
“ It’s Hermione” explained Harry and went to the door to let her in.
“ Hello, Harry!” she greet him and entered the crowded kitchen. “Hello everybody! Hi Ron!” Hermione added with an especially sweet smile and kissed him briefly causing Ginny, Percy, Harry and George to whistle and Ron to become very red. He still wasn’t used to have a girlfriend and kiss her in front of his parents.
“ Hello, Hermione” mumbled Ron
“ Did you receive it?” She asked anxiously
“ Receive what?” Ron pretended he didn’t understand and Harry laughed silently behind Hermione’s back.
“ The letter!” she screamed
“ Which letter?” He continued, trying to keep a straight face. Hermione went pale in a second.
“ But… I thought that everybody…” she stammered in shock
“ Come one, Ron!” interrupted Ginny taking pity on Hermione. “Yes, he and Harry received letters too”.
“ RONALD WEASLEY!” Hermione exclaimed hitting him with her own letter. But she couldn’t say anything else because the chickens started clucking again and everybody turned to look for the source of the commotion.
“ Angelina” informed Harry and stood up to open de door. Maybe he should consider a career as a doorman.
Angelina entered and greeted everybody with familiarity. She was surprised to see Hermione there so early but when Percy explained her that the admission had been extended she simply panicked.
“Oh my god! I didn’t realize that Hogwarts letters had to start arriving by this time and people will be pouring into Diagon Alley to do their shopping!” Angelina almost screamed. It seemed she was going to hyperventilate. The Weasleys, Harry and Hermione couldn’t take their eyes off of her “The shop isn’t open yet and everybody will want to shop at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. They will want to make up for the terrible time they had last year. But there is no way I can do this alone! GEORGE! I NEED YOUR HELP! You have to get up and start doing something productive”. She finished decidedly, her eyes gleaming with dare.
Everybody’s head turned to George. He stared at Angelina for a few seconds and then he got up the chair and said: “OK. Let’s go to work”.
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