Chapter 5 : The Steps to the Solution
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A/N: I sincerely apologize for not updating sooner – these past few months have been crazy and I’ve been unable to post. I’ll try my best to get back on schedule as soon as I can. Thanks!
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to J.K. Rowling, excluding the plot.
The Hogwarts Express arrived at Hogsmeade Station the following day, ready to accommodate the remainder of the inhabitants of Hogwarts. Mr. Weasley, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and a few parents, students and staff approached the train, exhausted and hopeful and excited. Their figures faded in and out of the billowing steam on the platform as they filed onto the red locomotive, alive with chatter yet quiet with grief all at once.
The trio walked down the narrow corridor, taking their time in choosing from one of the many empty compartments.
“You know Harry, I’ve been thinking a lot about what you heard those voices say.” Hermione began as she pulled back one of the compartment doors.
“Voices? What voices?” Ron questioned. He lowered his voice. “Not like...Chamber of Secrets voices, right?”
“Calm down, Ron. Before we arrived at the Ministry to save Harry, he heard those voices from the Veil again. Except this time, he understood what they were saying. I’ve been trying to solve it for days now. Here.” She handed Ron and Harry a piece of paper with the riddle written out.
Ron scanned the paper with a look of utter confusion.
“You will not leave alone? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means, if Harry succeeds, he might be able to take someone that has gone through the Veil back with him.” After finally figuring it out, Hermione couldn’t wait to tell Harry. She knew that he would be immediately delighted at the fact that he may have a chance to retrieve Sirius.
“Sirius! Hermione, this is perfect! I can get him back!” Harry had a smile – rarely shown – that was so free and so open you couldn’t help but smile along with him. It had been months, maybe years, since Ron and Hermione had seen it, yet at this prospect, there it was.
“Do you really think we can?” asked Ron incredulously.
“It’s certainly a possibility, yes.”
“This is amazing! I...I don’t even...” Harry sighed. “Having Sirius back would...would complete everything again. He would fix everything – sort of like... he might-” His smile has fallen, just slightly, but enough for Hermione to take notice. “Can we save him?”
“There’s no harm in trying.” Ron reasoned.
“Exactly.” Hermione agreed. Hermione wanted nothing more than to be happy for Harry, but she also recognized that it may be too dangerous to rescue Sirius at all. For this, Hermione transitioned quickly into another subject.
“Have either of you thought about what’s going to happen to us once we graduate next year?” asked Hermione.
“Who cares? We’re famous!” Ron said excitedly.
“There are more important things than fame. You may be basking in all its glory, Ronald, but Harry has most likely seen enough of it, yes?” Hermione frowned.
“For me, yes, but come on, let the man have his fun Hermione!” Harry smirked at Ron’s broad child-like smile.
They spent the rest of the ride talking about what it finally felt like to be carefree and how their lives would suddenly be so much different. There was a change in the air around them, and they could all sense it. They had just witnessed something monumental – and nothing would ever be the same.
Harry knew Ron had always wanted to end up with Hermione, but he had also taken notice in Hermione’s recent change in attitude towards Ron. It seemed that the entire Weasley family anticipated that Ron and Hermione would get married. It felt like the natural order of things – it was expected. Harry’s relationship with Ginny, however, had changed dramatically, and for the worse. Harry had no idea how the Weasley family would react when they found out that Ginny and himself were no longer on speaking terms. There was always that small feeling of not belonging, that pressing fate of being purposefully forgotten. Harry feared that the Weasley’s acceptance would falter because of the broken connection between himself and Ginny, and at the present time, he was unsure if he was simply being irrational.
“Harry, what do you reckon we should do next?” Ron asked lazily.
“I’m not quite sure actually. It’s guaranteed that our pictures are going to be all over the Prophet these next few days, and we’re going to have to be careful when we go out in public. I know I’ll probably want to get involved in Quidditch sometime later on, or maybe be an Auror, but I think I want to wait a little longer, you know, at least until we finish our education.” Hermione gave a small smile at his mention of school. Harry shrugged. He had surprised himself; until this moment, he had not thought about the future, or about what he might like to do. He had not anticipated being alive at this point, and it almost shocked him that he had any aspirations at all.
“True. I guess we should wait until after our N.E.W.T.s anyways, it’ll be easier to get a job.” Ron added.
“And we’ll be fully qualified.” Hermione stated.
“At least you will. I doubt I’ll be any better at Potions this year than I was in 6th year. Without that book, I would’ve been lost.” Harry said.
“Hey, who do you think will take Defence position this year?” Ron asked.
“I don’t know. It’ll probably be some old friend of Dumbledore’s. Or maybe a Ministry official. It won’t be Umbridge that’s for sure, with Kingsley as the new Minister.” Harry said nonchalantly.
“Slughorn will be back for Potions?” Ron asked.
“Oh, probably.” Hermione answered.
They settled into light conversation, and Harry, Ron and Hermione retrieved their belongings as the Hogwarts Express slowly pulled into Platform 9 ¾, which was expectedly empty.
They all gathered around Mr. Weasley as he informed them of the portkey that Kingsley had generously set up for them. Mrs. Weasley would be waiting at the Burrow with lunch prepared, as Percy and George were working at the shop and Bill and Fleur had headed back to Shell Cottage. Charlie had gone back to Romania to get some of his things and then he would be returning back to London to visit everybody for a few days.
Harry glanced over at Ginny. She had sat a few compartments down from them, with Mr. Weasley. He didn’t know that Harry and Ginny were not speaking; she had managed to convince her father that she was simply exhausted and emotionally drained (which, to be fair, she was.)
Ron saw Harry look over at his sister and grabbed Harry’s shoulder, silently making sure he was alright. Harry nodded at Ron with a grateful smile. Despite his flaws, Ron cared, and for that, Harry was appreciative.
“Alright everyone, grab hold of the bottle!” Mr. Weasley motioned towards the worn glass bottle that was suspended between his fingers and glowing a deep blue. They all rushed over and grabbed on, just seconds before they felt the usual tug in their abdomen and went spinning into nothingness. Despite the familiarity, magic seemed so different now. It wasn’t really needed for survival anymore; it just was.
A few moments later, they all came plummeting to the ground. Ron landed first, and he succeeded in face-planting the rough terrain. Harry was flipping through the air and clumsily landed right on top of Ron, standing dizzily on his friends back.
“Ugh, Harry, get off me!”
“Sorry, mate!” Harry exclaimed apologetically, before making to step off to help his friend up. As both of them stood, Hermione landed where the two had just been. Trying to regain her balance, she grabbed onto Harry and Ron, pulling them down with her.
“We’ll need to work on your landing skills I’m afraid, you three.” Mr. Weasley chuckled as he stood waiting on the edge of the path leading to the Burrow.
“How does he manage to stay standing?” Ron mumbled, rubbing his back as the three of them climbed to their feet. Ginny had landed a few yards away, being able to plant herself on the ground with her knees.
“No idea.” Harry groaned as he felt his paining neck, making sure it wasn’t broken.
“I’m sorry!” Hermione cried.
Mr. Weasley beckoned for them to follow, and they all headed down the path.
They all arrived at the Burrow a little while later, being welcomed into the lopsided house by Mrs. Weasley, who was clearly trying to keep her emotions in check. Everyone could see how hard she was trying not to cry in front of them; Fred’s death was affecting her terribly. She smiled weakly and greeted them as usual with their fair share of hugs, although less enthusiastic than usual.
“Oh wonderful, wonderful. I see you’ve all arrived safely. Food’s almost ready so you lot better go wash up.” She ushered them all inside, casting a concerned look at Harry. She could see that he was missing something; his eyes were dim, his laugh was different. She couldn’t blame him though; he was a young boy who had been forced into a life that brought nothing but loss.
Mrs. Weasley cast Mr. Weasley a questioning look when Ginny and Harry didn’t even acknowledge each others presence.
She called them all to the table a little while later, and they ate in silence, which was certainly a rarity at the Burrow. Throughout the meal, Ron and Hermione glanced concernedly at Harry, ensuring that he was handling recent events well, what with the defeat of Voldemort, the finding of the room and the conflictions with Ginny. Harry wasn’t really sure what he was feeling at the moment. He felt happy that he had finally managed to defeat Voldemort and that his two best friends were still alive, yet he was mourning. He could not shake the pressing feeling of loss. The loss of his parents, of Sirius, of Dumbledore, of Tonks and Lupin and Fred. The loss of his girlfriend. The loss of his strength. He was drained and extremely confused. He wanted to laugh and cry and be alone and have his friends all at once. Things were never simple for Harry.
Mr. Weasley was the first person to talk.
“Well, I’m sorry all, but I must be off. I have to get to work, Kingsley is expecting me. There are quite a few things to be taken care of. Keep safe, all of you. Alright. See you all later then.”
“Goodbye, dear.” Mrs. Weasley sent off the dirty dishes towards the kitchen and kissed her husband on the cheek.
“Bye, Dad.” Ron mumbled through a full mouth of treacle tart.
“See you Mr. Weasley.” Harry waved.
“Bye Mr. Weasley!” Hermione called.
There was an odd silence left behind when they heard the familiar crack of apparation. It wasn’t awkward, no. It was just empty.
“Thanks for lunch, Mum.” Ginny said quietly before ascending the stairs to her room.
“I don’t know what’s gotten into her!” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed as she directed Ron’s now clean dessert plate towards the sink.
“She’s just a bit sad, that’s all. Probably over…” Hermione paused. “Well, over everything, really. We all are, we just show it differently.”
Harry nodded his thanks to Hermione as the trio headed out into the yard.
“Ron, what do you reckon your parents will say when they find out Ginny and I aren’t together anymore?”
“Well, they’ve always wanted you two together, but seriously, they won’t mind once they find out how Ginny used you.” Ron admitted. “We’re all a bit preoccupied right now, anyway.”
“Don’t worry, Harry. Even if they seem upset, they’ll just be worried. They think of you as a son and won’t be mad. They will try and make you feel better if anything. Relationships certainly aren’t their top priority at the moment, to be honest.” Hermione reassured him. “Plus, I think we have better things to worry about, like Gryffindor’s Quarters and that riddle the voices from the veil gave you!” Hermione said excitedly.
Harry ran his hands through his raven hair and gestured a small nod.
The next few days rushed by very fast. Harry felt like they were planning to break into the Ministry or Gringotts all over again.
“So, I was thinking. I know it’s just my prophecy and everything, but I was wondering if you guys would want to come with me.” Harry asked hopefully.
“Harry, we already told you we were going to stick with you until the end. Whatever it takes, we’re coming with you.” Hermione said.
“Yeah, mate. With Voldemort gone, we’re going to be lacking adventure. And now, we have a secret room, three doors that lead all over the castle and a mystery that involves your prophecy and Sirius. This year is going to be better than ever.”
“And we’re going to do everything together.” Hermione nodded.
“Yep. As the... what are we called now? The Golden Trio or whatever.” Ron added.
The first week of summer came and went, with Ron and Harry trying to involve Hermione in the basics of Quidditch, without success. She was definitely uncomfortable with flying, but she found Harry and Ron’s enthusiasm on the subject quite amusing. Quidditch was a fantastic distraction. It provided its own release and isolation, but still kept them all together. It was exactly what they needed.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were both becoming quite worried about Ginny. She had come out of her room after the first day, and now joined them at meals, but she hadn’t spoken with Ron, Harry or Hermione for the last week. When asked why she was acting so strangely, she managed to convince them all that it was just about Fred, which was understandable, given the current situation.
Fred’s funeral had been postponed for a few weeks after the battle instead of just a few days because the Weasleys had to wait until Charlie was able to attend, and George needed to be able to have people watching over the shop while he was gone.
Harry wasn’t sure the Weasleys had actually really realized that Fred was gone. He knew it was going to be very emotional, and was glad that they had waited a bit so everybody could calm down and settle into the new circumstances.
Harry himself was a little distressed because of all the memorials and funerals he had to attend. Not just the people close to him, but all of the people who had died in the war. It was difficult for him to swallow – he felt such guilt, felt so much that this was his entire fault, he couldn’t bear it.
The days of summer were seeping by as the end of June approached. Since the battle had ended in the beginning of May, summer for Hogwarts students was extended by a month, allowing time to get settled and spend time with remaining family.
The Burrow had a different atmosphere than it normally did. Ginny secluded herself in her room, Mr. Weasley was always working and Percy and George spent most of their time at the shop. Harry guessed that George found the separation from his family a relief; Harry knew how it felt to lose a loved one. He knew that seeking time alone was only normal.
Harry was worried about Ron. Ron had just carried on being his normal self and knew that he would be grieving for weeks on end when the dreadful news finally came into full realization. Despite being with the Weasleys, Harry felt that he shouldn’t be there. He knew Hermione felt the same way, too. They weren’t really part of the family; they were scared they were intruding upon something that wasn’t their own.
Fred’s funeral had been a quiet affair, just the Weasleys, close relations and Harry and Hermione. They hadn’t wanted anyone from Hogwarts to come, as Mrs. Weasley didn’t want a huge crowd like the one at Dumbledore’s funeral.
The funerals of Fred, Lupin and Tonks were the first to occur out of those who had died. Lupin and Tonks were to be buried together, having a double funeral.
Fred’s funeral was held outside, a little ways away from the Burrow. They had acquired a small amount of pews, and it was rarely discussed. People arrived, people hugged, people cried. Harry and Hermione stood on the outside of it all, out of place. There was a procession, there were speeches. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley sat at the front, sobbing. The other Weasleys however, did not cry. They didn’t talk, they didn’t move. They just stood, watching with blank eyes, disbelieving. It pained Harry, to watch them. The longer they waited, the harder it would be to come to terms with it all.
Despite the previous plans, George did not attend his twin’s funeral. Harry felt numb.
This all changed, however, the following week. Lupin and Tonks’ funeral was organized by Kingsley, and was held in a large room at the Ministry. Harry could not think – everyone was there. They hugged him, they grabbed him, they spoke to him. He heard nothing. He wanted none of it. Don’t thank me. They’re dead. They’re all dead.
The Weasleys took seats near the front of the room, close to the podium. The family took up an entire row, Harry and Hermione sitting together at one end, next to Ron.
Ron was a mess; he had not slept in three days, yet he had not cried. He sat in the living room at the Burrow, day after day, next to George. They sat there, together and apart, just staring blankly. The loss of Fred was killing them both.
Ron’s head was rested in his hands, and Hermione sat quietly, looking tired and worried. Harry felt that he could handle this. He had to make himself numb again, just not feel. Not care.
When the bodies were carried up, though, in their coffins, everything broke again. Harry had no resolve, no more strength. Ron looked as if he did not care. Harry hated him in that instant. Ron had to care. Sure, Fred was gone, but Lupin was the only connection he had left to his parents, and he was gone. Just like that.
Hermione looked over at Harry, and saw his face falling, his jaw tensing. He watched Kingsley stand to speak, saw young Teddy, with his teal hair and bright eyes, and that was it. He gave up. Hermione saw Harry’s shoulders sink down, and then he started to cry. He wasn’t sobbing, he wasn’t weeping. Harry just cried, for Lupin, for Tonks, for Teddy, for everyone. He let the tears fall, he let Hermione hug him, he watched Ron turn to him and look away. He slumped into his chair, leaning on Hermione, while the funeral continued, and eventually, ended.
Harry didn’t give his speech; he hadn’t wanted to, and it was probably for the best. There were too many people there, pretending to care and pretending to cry. They could not know the loss that Harry Potter felt. There was no point in speaking.
The other services came and went, Harry making appearances at all and saying a few words at each. Everything was done with by the middle of July. Life at the Burrow had changed completely. The Weasleys attitude had changed; they were more accepting of everything that had occurred. Ron was doing much better, and Hermione remained as calm as ever. Harry began to spend more and more time outside. The people within the Burrow were putting their lives back together. He wanted to join them, but he couldn’t. He wasn’t ready to heal yet, so he separated himself from it all.
There was a tree in the yard at the Burrow that provided cool shade on even the hottest days. Harry liked to sit beneath it alone, and just think. One day, though, near the end of the July, he saw Hermione approaching him.
“Harry?” Hermione asked quietly.
“How are you feeling? Alright?”
“I’m fine.” He gave a small nod of reassurance.
“Liar. I can see right through you, you know that.” Hermione sighed. “What’s troubling you?”
He let out a sigh and a small laugh at the same time. “Everything.” He surveyed the garden before him, his eyes travelling far past the yard.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.” She bit her lip cautiously. “Harry, I know you’re upset, but…”
“Hermione, no. It is that bad. For me, at least.” Harry said forcefully, turning away from the fields and looking at Hermione. “The war has changed... a lot of things.” He said slowly.
“No it hasn’t.” Hermione stated. “And even if it has, I know you can change it back.”
“Look, you and Ron have great futures ahead of you. I don’t want to put you guys through anything else. I don’t want anybody else to get hurt.” Hermione could tell that Harry was willing himself not to cry.
“Harry...’’ Hermione started.
Harry shook his head. Hermione slowly stood up, and walked away quietly. Harry had finally realized, that at the root of everything, this was it. He cared too much. It was days, maybe weeks later, when Harry spoke to someone again.
Harry could sense the worry pulsing through the Burrow. He had not left Ron’s room since his conversation with Hermione, and everyone except Hermione was wondering what was going on. Mrs. Weasley would bring him food, and he would reply with “Thank you, Mrs. Weasley.” There was a certain formality, and sharpness that Harry had adopted.
Hermione was smart enough not to tell everyone why Harry was upset. She knew that telling people would upset him even more. She realized that because he had been carrying the weight of the whole wizarding world on his shoulders for so long, he felt lost without it. He felt like he was living without purpose or reason. He was only there to save the world and make everything better. That’s it.
One Saturday morning brought about a change in events. Hermione, Ginny, Ron, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and Charlie all sat around the kitchen table eating breakfast. Hearing footsteps overhead, everyone stopped eating and looked at the stairs. Harry appeared moments later, looking well rested and hungry. He smiled at everyone and took his seat in between Ron and Hermione.
“Sorry I’m late.” he said apologetically.
“Don’t go pretending like nothing’s happened. Don’t pretend you haven’t locked yourself up in Ron’s room for the last week.” Ginny spat. Harry’s smile faded, and no one spoke.
Harry addressed everyone at the table. “I wasn’t feeling very well to be perfectly honest. The last couple months took a great toll on me and I just needed some time off. That’s all.” Harry said sincerely.
“Perfectly understandable. Welcome back, Harry.” Mrs. Weasley announced, with a hint of hesitation. She was still adjusting to everything; in a house so large, everyone healed in different ways.
Hermione nodded reassuringly at Harry, and Charlie gave him a small smile.
The rest of the day went rather smoothly for Harry, as he, Ron, and Hermione began their planning for going beyond the Veil.
“When are we going to get time to do all this, though?” Ron asked.
“Maybe we can ask Professor McGonagall about it.” Harry reasoned.
“Yeah, she’ll probably give us some time to look into it. After all, she did tell you about Gryffindor’s Quarters in the first place.” said Ron lazily as he sat on the bench out in the backyard.
“That’s it!” Hermione cried, looking up from her book. “I’ve been reading up on magical veils, particularly about the one in the Department of Mysteries. There are ministries all over the world, and they all have one. Listen to this: ‘Magical veils have many features of protection that serve as obstacles within.’
“It doesn’t sound like getting in will be very easy. Like the riddle, it says entering at first is dangerous for your eyes. I’ll look into it a bit more and figure out what we’ll be dealing with.” She scanned the text. “And another thing, ‘Once inside a veil, no time passes in the external world.’ No one will realize how long we’ve been gone.” Hermione explained.
“That’s perfect!” Harry exclaimed.
A/N: This chapter was one of the most difficult chapters I’ve had to write / edit for Behind the Tapestry, so I really hope it turned out well. Thank you so much, especially if you’ve stuck with this story so far, and please remember to leave a review!
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